There is something very magical about typing on those old-school manual typewriters. From the satisfying snap of the spring-loaded keys, to the gleam of the polished chrome accents, to the crisp marks on the printed page, typewriters make for a sublime writing experience. Now, the USB Typewriter Conversion Kit lets you enjoy the magic of writing on a manual typewriter, without forfeiting the ability to use word-processing, email, web-browsing, or other modern desktop conveniences. Instead of fixating on a computer monitor, you can experience the simple joy of typing with ink on paper, and only look up at your monitor when you need to. Or, you can work on your typewriter alone, while discreetly saving your work to disk! (Your USB Typewriter will also make a nifty keyboard-stand for your iPad)

In these instructions, I'll help you breathe digital life into your old typewriter by converting it into a keyboard for your PC, Mac, or tablet computer. The USB Typewriter Conversion Kit will work on a wide variety of manual typewriters, from many different manufacturers and eras.

The hack is intended as a full keyboard replacement, so you can get rid of that piece of disposable plastic you call a keyboard and use the desk space for a classic, functional work of art -- A USB Typewriter!

Read on, and you'll see how easy the conversion process is -- anyone can do it, regardless of skill, and there is absolutely no soldering involved. If you are interested in performing this conversion on your own typewriter, you can purchase the USB Typewriter Conversion Kit at www.usbtypewriter.com/kits

The kit is designed to work on most manual typewriters, dating anywhere from the 1910s through 1960s. If you want to make sure your typewriter will work with the kit, simply look for your make and model in my Compatibility Guide, or email me at jack@usbtypewriter.com.

Step 1: How It Works

The USB Typewriter Conversion Kit consists of three simple components, which come pre-assembled and ready to attach to the typewriter as shown.

  • The Sensor Strip - The Sensor Strip is a row of 44 gold-plated contacts, attached to a long circuit board which will be mounted underneath the keys, spanning the width of the typewriter. Each time a key is pressed, it touches one of these gold-plated contacts, and this contact is detected by the circuitry.
  • The Magnetic Sensors - Since the Space Bar, Shift Key, and Backspace Key do not touch the sensor strip, they are instead detected magnetically. Magnets are attached to these keys, and magnetically-activated switches are glued nearby. These switches can detect the change in the magnetic field whenever these keys are pressed.
  • The Control Panel - This circuit board reads information from the magnetic sensors and the sensor strip, then determines which key has been pressed, sending that information to the computer over USB. The control panel also has several important buttons mounted directly on it: they are CTRL, ALT, and CMD. The Control Panel is mounted to the side of the typewriter, so that these buttons can be accessed easily.
I was thinking, &quot;okay, this is kind of neat, but I like my old typewriter to be a typewriter.&quot; I like to use it especially if I have writer's block because (although I installed a ribbon with correction tape instead of red) it's hard to go back, making it impossible to edit-while-writing. It also has no mytimewastebook or any such nonsense. <br> <br>But then I realized that one use &mdash; for me at least &mdash;&nbsp;is that if I write something on the typewriter, I usually have to transcribe it manually since OCR has a tough time with the cloth-ribbon letters. With this, I can make an instant backup, at least getting all the text entered. <br> <br>A Bluetooth version would be cool, but perhaps even better (more generic) is something to make a USB keyboard Bluetooth (a box with a rechargeable that acts as a Bluetooth keyboard but requires a USB keyboard to get its input.)
I would love a guide to make a bluetooth keyboard that could be linked up with the Galaxy S3 :-D please please please provide... ;-) <br> <br>best regards <br>Elkongen (=the electrical king)
<p>On my smith-corona Galaxie,</p><p>So I am trying to install the sensor kit, but the crossbar is too wide and has a ridge running through the middle of it, making the contacts to short to reach all the way around. I could glue it anyways, but am afraid the contacts won't work correctly </p>
<p>i love typewriters! this is such a cool idea to me and im gonna have to do this ASAP!</p>
<p>In case you're looking for something to make your computer behave more like a typewriter while using your typewriter USB keyboard, you might like to try OverType: http://uniqcode.com/typewriter/ </p>
<p>I got to the Calibrate part. The magnets and switches worked, but the sensor board did not. Not a single key. It looks like I scraped the paint well enough off the bottom, but I'll try some more. They A key does look a bit off, will that cause the rest of the board to not work? How should I proceed?</p>
<p>. (Note that the Shift key MUST go in the holes marked &quot;SHIFT&quot;).</p><p>I don't see the holes that are marked SHIFT, what am I missing?</p>
<p>I see SHIFT on your board, but mine says 4. Same thing? </p>
<p>I love this idea. I am a writer who came to age in the era of typewriters. I recently bought an 1966 Olympia because I miss using a manual typewriter after I made the switch to a PC in the mid-1980s. I'd buy this, but there is a downside... I am completely and utterly un-mechanical or electrical, so I am afraid I will undoubtedly screw this up if I try to make the conversion myself. I thought about paying somebody locally to do it, but have no clue where to start. Good idea, even genius, but impractical for non-techies. </p>
<p>This is the best. I'm working on your conversion kit. I am afraid i will mess up. I have made it to the hot glue part... I think a good service you could offer would be for people like myself. If we try and do not do so well we could send it to you and you could fix our mistakes... I want to do it myself, but when I have trouble, no one around me is able to help. </p>
beautiful. I was looking at the solder yourself kit and noticed the 74hc595s. I thought those were more for output than input. would the 74hc597 work better?
<p>I love the look of this. Has anyone wondered about damage to the typewriter's platen from typing without paper inserted? Thanks. </p>
<p>I know this is a bit old, so not sure if it is still checked or if Jack has an alert. Just curious if since you've been doing this if you've update to a more recent USB or would I still need the Camera Connection kit for my iPad to use it? I ordered a conversion kit today on Etsy. Despite it being October it still mentions you being on vacation in July. I hope you came back!</p>
How can I assign a magnetic switch to the return carriage? The instructables say it's much more difficult to do so, but are there any instructions to this at all? I'd rather try it than assign a dummy key to work as &quot;Enter&quot;.
Received my order from you, but I must have ordered incorrectly. I got Corona kits, and I have Smith Coronas Classic 12s. Will the Corona EZ kits work? I emailed you, but didn't see a response, so thought I'd try here.
Yes, the Corona kits will work just the same on Smith Coronas. Thanks for asking, and enjoy your kit.
Yes, the Corona kits will work just the same on Smith Coronas. Thanks for asking, and enjoy your kit.
What if I plug it in and there is no beep?
Greg, <br> <br>Was this problem resolved for you? I sent new circuit boards to a number of customers that had received a bad batch that did not beep. <br> <br>-Jack
Yeah I am having the same problem. There is no beep. Is there a solution to this?!
really impressive. Is it possible we can further convert it into a printer ? store file in USB typewriter module and print out on typewriter ?... raspberry pi can be used .
I thought about doing this years ago, it is nice to see someone else went to the trouble to do it. I had a secretary model--forgot the brand. It came in a slim case and from what I understood, it was used primarily by sports writers and journalists on the go. I loved using it, because I am old enough (52) that I started on a manual in 7th or 8th grade, then moved on to electric in high school. <br>The manual typewriters were/are more corporeal and I like the deeper finger movement; it just seems &quot;righter for a writer&quot;. <br>I believe that this type of re-invention might find its way into the work place of people who do a lot of data entry and/or people who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. CTS never existed in the days of early electric typewriters because you still had to thunk the keys a bit. <br>I know my wrists/hands benefit more from a manual style typewriter. Maybe you re-invented the future!
Hey congratulations on being a finalist in the hack it contest! Good luck to you!
Cute as a novelty, but wouldn't work real good for everyday use as there are many essential keys missing.
Thanks for the feedback, but actually, the additional 3 buttons on the control panel allow you to access many additional functions, such as Ctrl, Alt, F1-F12, Arrow keys, and so on.
All of a sudden I like it even more than I already did! :) <br>Well done!
Nice! Ever think about a USB typewriter that prints to paper as you type on a regular keyboard? You could type on a typewriter, have it go through a computer and typed on a different machine!
Wow. Cool kit. I did this years ago with a lot of switches and patience. It was a royal pain in the neck.
&quot;'Royal' pain in the neck&quot; I see what you did there.
He's shifty that way.
That looks a lot easier than the board I built back in 1980 to interface an IBM Selectric to a TRS-80. Sure beat paying $1300 for a Radio Scrap line printer and another $300 for an Expansion Interface. <br> <br>I still have my original schematic.
WOW! Thats what I call technical extacy!

About This Instructable




More by jackzylkin:Installing USB Typewriter Conversion Kit for Corona and Smith-Corona Typewriters Installing USB Typewriter Kit on Olivetti Typewriters Retrofit an Antique Scroll Saw to Use Modern Blades 
Add instructable to: