Typewriter to Printer: Progress!

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 8.33.31 PMI am converting an almost 100 year old typewriter into a printer that will print your tweets to it on paper while you can watch it on a webcam.

It has been a good week for the typewriter to printer conversion project.


  • Andrew helped me put together a table I designed for the typewriter. Basically I just went to Home Depot and bought 3 pieces of lumber ($15) and figured out how to cut them to get what I need out of them. Turned out pretty stable. Maybe I should build more of them anyway, quite good size for a standing-work desk and dead cheap.

Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 2.52.17 AM

  • SolenoidsI bought turned out to have enough power to pull the key down enough to strike. This showed though, that they will all need to be individually adjustable, since each key has a little different resistance.

See yourself:


  • I finally got almost all the electronics I need (another motor probably for better cartridge return), so I started soldering the control board and it works very well with the arduino. (right now still connected to a computer to read from keyboard and send pull to according solenoid. At some point I will use a WIFI arduino to make have the least cables possible go into the table to make it moveable)


  • Configured an old network camera to show what the typewriter is doing on the web. Important to show people what is printed after they send their tweet to the typewriter
  • Jane helped me figuring out how the online representation should be. We will open a site called something similar to “le petite print shop” and give the typewriter its own “business” where you can get your tweets printed.

Next Steps

  • check the shift registers (74HC595), in a daisy chain for 32 different outputs. I found a source for them at Creatron here in Toronto because of Jon who is working on a very cool flipper project.
  • Finish soldering the control boards (2 boards with each 16 transistors and 2 shift registers to control 32 “actions” all together.

After above two steps are done, the electronics soldering part should be done, just a few pins from an arduino will go into the shift registers and control all keys. Not sure yet if also the cartridge return and new line motors will / can go through that or if they will be connected directly to the arduino. However – should not be an issue.

  • Laser cut 3 pieces that will let me move the solenoids up and down and fix them in position with a screw. Will do this at site3 here in Toronto, a really cool spot to build hardware.
  • Fix motor with gears on new line gear (this is all moving with the cartridge return, therefore not that easy)
  • Find new motor for cartridge return, maybe same one as new line anyway?

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 8.33.57 PM

Further Ideas

  • Make sure it is easy to move and setup  (just one cable to plug in and WIFI setup on arduino / also setting twitter hashtag or account on the web server to line up tweets) so we can actually take it somewhere to show people during events or at places.


Parts so far came from Active Surplus Toronto, Creatron Toronto, Home Depot and Electronic Goldmine.

Thanks for helping out Jane, Andrew and Manuel.

Feedback / Ideas – let me know! 

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Typewriter to Printer Conversion: Current Status

Remington 1212So I had to learn that the 30 solenoids I got, wont have enough power at the low leverage point I wanted to connect them to the typewriter. Making me wonder to either get stronger ones with same pull-in (7mm would do) or get ones that can pull in 3 cm, will have to investigate what is around and affordable.

Finding use for the 30 cheap solenoids I already got should not be to difficult, thinking about a little music making installation. Ideas for other uses are welcome! The ones in the picture are not the ones I have. 

While in Vienna, I had a chance to talk with Manuel Laber from Laber’s LAB about my project. Great guy, always inspiring to speak with btw. He had some improvements for me. Instead of a stepping motor, I will just use the ‘Buehler DC Motor with Gear Train and Optical Detector’ I already got and instead of multiplexing I will use a shift register.

Looking for electronic parts in Toronto, I came across A1 and Active Surplus Electronics, both kind of conveniently located, A1 being close to my girlfriends parents house and Active Surplus being right here on Queen Street West (Thanks Andrew).

upverter sketch

The solenoid issue can be solved by money, of course there is powerful solenoids with enough pull to do the trick, but I need 30 of them, so I am still brainstorming how to get this working.

Some ideas are (not investigated yet)

  • Use electric magnet on each key to pull it down
  • Get just one powerful solenoid that can be connected to any key by a different mechanism (since only one key can be pulled at a time, would be more efficient anyway but was dismissed first since the extra mechanism will cause extra trouble)
  • build up lever action in favor of the solenoid

No matter what I will come up with, I will still use the electronics layout / collaboration cloud tool provided by Toronto based Startup Upverter – already re-learned a lot about electronic engineering because of their tool.

Ideas to help me out? Please let me know!

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Good News Everyone!

After thorough investigations I believe to have solved the last mechanical challenges to make full control of the typewriter feasible. (in the least invasive / visual way)

  • cartridge return can be done by rolling up a string around the corner and released after it is done OR a motor with gears right behind it and raising the bar for the tabs to connect with the gears there (less hidden)
  •  New Line: stepping motor, gear and belt to be able to sit on the cartridge that slides left and right.
  •  key hammers get stuck: not enough power in the spring that was used to pull them back, can be easily achieved through extra weight on the hook of the spring.

English Idioms learned the hard way.

Photo by Jeffrey Beall

Do you know what “being half in the bag” means? I thought I did, until this happened …

First, if you know what it means, read on. If you don’t know, or just maybe know, read this! English is not my first language, so while living in an English speaking place, I do sometimes reuse phrases and idioms without double-checking them, since, to be honest, it is just not feasible, and works great most of the times.

Well this is how it worked out with “being half in the bag”.

During my first visit in Toronto (years ago) we were invited to a New Years Eve party at a friends place. When we arrived, the host opened the door in his bathrobe and said: “Thanks for coming over, I am already half in the bag so make yourself at home, I will be with you in five“.

Continue reading “English Idioms learned the hard way.”

How a park made a fool out of me, 3 times. True story.

Considering a downtown park, in a mega city like Toronto, I assumed the following things are impossible, can’t exist or just won’t work. Oh boy, was I wrong:

1. Did you know white squirrels exist? No? Me neither, until I saw one at the park!


2. Checking out the neighbourhood of an apartment we where going to see, I discovered this huge park where Google Maps revealed 8 tennis courts in there. Looking forward getting some use out of my racket, I considered worth shipping over from Vienna, I started searching for the Tennis Club operating it, trying to find out membership fees, etc. I did not find anything! Okay, maybe they just don’t have a website. After moving there I walked up the the tennis courts and just asked someone about where to get a membership and how much it is.

Continue reading “How a park made a fool out of me, 3 times. True story.”

How to live without cable TV

Image representing Boxee as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

After years without a TV in Vienna, we ended up receiving one as a gift after moving to Toronto. Since we did not really miss a TV, it stayed in its box for a while. What made us not miss a TV at all? Our entertainment / information consumption habits had completely changed!

  • It started at University in England: Besides high TV licence fees, we did not even think about getting a shared TV for our flat, as there was just so much else to do on campus for entertainment. The news we collected online anyway already. For movies and shows there was already the itunes store.
  • Back in Austria, moving in with Jane, I brought my old TV to our apartment (just because I considered it part of my furniture) and removed it again after a week.
  • We still watched TV shows and movies on itunes every now and then. But owning a physical TV device with a cable / satellite connection did no add any value for us, as the “live” factor did not matter to us (we dont watch sports).
  • It made us go outside and meet people, read books, etc, as there wasn’t the convenience of just pressing a button and sit on the couch any longer.
Boxee Box and Remote
Boxee Box and Remote (Photo credit: William Hook)

So here we are, having a huge TV, we got as a gift. We needed to work something out. Looking into streaming solutions, as we hate the TV cable companies here, brought us to boxee.tv about a year ago. And we are happy with it, we hardly see any ads, watch tv shows and movies whenever we want and got access to lots of alternative / independent libraries. First we were scared that his convenience will get us to watch more TV again, but we were wrong. We still can’t just go to a channel and let it flow. And I think that is what makes us watch less TV. What are your thoughts?

If you are planning to get a boxee.tv, make sure you have a real unlimited internet plan. Also they have a stick now that will give you live TV in case you want it (just a few channels). I like about the boxee that they are improving it constantly, the user interface improved very much in the last year and I am sure that buying a boxee was a good investment. Let me know if you have questions about available content in Toronto.

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Canada Trip


NONE -> Freitag Nachmittag erfahren, dass wir Samstag Vormittag fliegen werden =)


Check-in beim CAT wie immer ein Traum der Convinience.
Dave (Janes Vater) war so nett uns auf Business Class upgraden zu lassen. Lounge der Lufthansa in Frankfurt war aber unter unseren Erwartungen. Der Service im Transatlantik Flug war dafür um so besser. 4 Gang Menü mit passender Weinbegleitung (auch ein bekannter GrüVe aus dem Kamptal war dabei), Massage Sitz mit Liege-Funktion, Entertainmentcenter, etc.

11072009080Week 1

Relaxen am Pool in Etobicoke, Janes Elternhaus. Hin und wieder in Downtown Toronto vorbeischauen was es Neues gibt. Gegenüber Weihnachten, als wir das letzte Mal da waren, ist alles grün statt schneeweiß und statt minus 20 Grad hat es plus 20 Grad. Im Supermarkt gibt es “Drunken Goat” Cheese und 1 Schluck Coke Cans (NUR 100 Calories). Ein BBQ mit Freunden und dann war es auch schon Zeit die Stadt Richtung Norden zu zu verlassen.

Week 2 + 3 -> Living the Canadian DreamCottage House

Cottage der Familie mit allen Toys die man sich vorstellen kann (ATVs, Schneemobile, Motorboot, Segelboot, Kanus, Ski-doo). Jeden Tag um 5 Uhr Sauna am See und unter Tags spielen mit den Toys. Die Landschaft hier ist wie geschaffen für ATV Trails. Neben dem Spass ist es auch die einzige Möglichkeit die Fauna und Flora effizient zu erkunden, denn wie bei so vielen Dingen ist hier alles viel größer als in Europa. Am ersten Tag gab es ATV Lessons für mich um bei der angesagten 4 Stunden Tour am nächsten Tag keinen Totalschaden zu verursachen =) For Dinner, gemeinsam mit der Familie, war ein perfekt gegrilltes Rack of Lamp.

ATVDie ATV Tour zeigte mir wie endlos groß die Wälder + Seen hier sind und wie eindrucksvoll das Cambrian Shield die Landschaft bestimmt. Biber Dämme sieht man in Mengen für diesen Tag prägend war jedoch die Begegnung mit einer Rattlesnake (Die einzige tödliche Schlange hier – 50km weit weg vom nächsten Krankenhaus) Der größte in Canada entdeckte Biber Damm war übrigens 1,5km lang und 3m hoch -> unglaublich!

Garbage DumpBären sind wir auf unserem ATV Trip zum Glück nicht begegnet, auf der Müllhalde im Nachbarort feiern diese nämlich eine Fressorgie. Unglaubliche 10 Allesfresser haben uns dort empfangen. Der Anblick ist erschreckend, nicht nur wie gefährlich nahe man diesen kräftigen Tieren ist, sondern auch wieviel Müll hier legal in der Natur “abgelegt” werden darf.

Im Wald hinter dem Haus habe ich einiges an Feuerholz zusammengeschnitten, um ein nettes Campfire am AbSteaksend entzünden zu können. Von Marshmallows war ich aber nicht sonderlich begeistert.

Black Angus Beef am Holzkohlegrill zubereitet – ein Traum!

Rückblick Kanada


Canada FlagEndlich wieder daheim, im “relativ” warmen Österreich – Kanada hat mir echt das frieren gelehrt. Nichtsdestotrotz war es ein wunderbarer Trip dessen Highlights ich hier gerne teile.

Air Canada Lounge am Airport Heathrow war gleich mal eine tolle Sache, so konnten wir während der Wartezeit auf den Transatlantikflug schon etwas relaxen. Der Flug nach Toronto verging wie im Flug =) Jeder Platz hatte sein eigenes Entertainment Center, weiters USB Anschluss und int. Steckdose – nicht schlecht =) Flugzeug Essen war auch gut, bis auf den Crap den sie bei den Briten eingeladen haben…

Bei der Ankunft hatten wir Glück, landeten nach einem Schneesturm, der auf Twitter als “Snowmageddon” bekannt wurde.

Weinachten war spitze – Santa Claus is gar kein schlechter Kerl =) Truthan war viel zu groß, habe noch 3 Tage daran gegessen…

Toronto hat ein, entschuldigen Sie den Ausdruck, beschissenes öffentliches Verkehrssystem. Extrem unterentwickelt im Gegensatz zu Wien, allerdings muss man Bedenken, dass Autos in dieser Gegend einen ganz anderen Stellenwert als bei uns genießen. Darüber hab ich natürlich, typisch Österreichisch, viel gesudert, dass Sprit dort halb soviel kostet und die Autos doppelt soviel brauchen.

NiagaraNiagara Fälle waren sehr beeindruckend, auch wirklich gute Aussicht vom Hilton auf beide Seiten, sowohl U.S. als auch auf die (viel größere und schönere) kanadische Seite.

USAKurz-Trip rüber in die Vereinigten Staaten war typisch -> Anstellen, Fingerabdrücke, Photo, Gebühr… und das für Buffalo, eine trostlose Gegend mit vielen Bergen, welche recht einfach als Müllberge identifiziert werden können.

Toronto DowntownNew Years Eve war weniger aufregend als in .at (kaum Leute feiern auf der Straße, wenig Feuerwerk), was wohl auf die schmerzhaften Temperaturen zurückzuführen ist.

Im Großen und Ganzen war das nun mein Kurzbericht zu 2 Wochen Kanada – freue mich schon auf den nächsten Trip im Sommer (und ja, da wird es dann wärmer sein).