Typewriter question

Since I have all of these new folks stopping by to look at the typewriter mod, maybe one of you will have an idea of how to do the other nifty thing I want. I want a USB carriage return. You know? I mean, how perfect would that be to be able to plug that in for those occasions when I need a hard return.

On the whole, I must say that having this at Readercon is very strange. I had it out today because I needed to print out the story for my reading, and people stopped with a double-take, pointing, because they had seen it on BoingBoing. (For my regular readers, be patient, the surge in traffic will die down shortly.)

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7 Responses

  1. Mike

    Hi Mary

    For your USB carriage return, you need something light and chrome-looking, that can be bent. How about finding one of those long, pseudo chrome-plated throwaway forks or spoons and hacking the spooned end off? Use some low heat to bend it into the shape of a carriage return arm, then glue it onto the USB stick and make it look good. Or, use a USB stick with a removable outer shell and attach the handle to that instead.

    The PNY Attache 1Gig sticks have a removable shell. http://reviews.cnet.com/sc/31157133-2-200-0.gif

  2. Mary Robinette Kowal

    Ah, but see, I can just salvage a carriage return off a parts machine. The thing I don’t know how to do is how to make it actually work. I’d want it to actually be able to enter a line break.

  3. Mike

    Ah, that’s what you’re after. Then google ‘usb brando’. They make novelty usb items (including the infamous usb-powered pole dancer, i believe) which include mechanical actuators. Once you rewire one of those it is only a matter of finding someone who can write some code to interpret the signal as a carriage return. You might also want to add a bell sound. 🙂 C++ programmers tend to be the best at working with the hardware/software interface.

    Since brando also makes novelty usb items to order, you might get them o help out.

  4. Mathew Clayson

    Or you can disasemble a cheap usb keyboard. ($10) The mini keyboards have a small circuit board with a chip apoxied on. You should be able to trace out the wires on the board to determine the X and Y scan lines of the return key. Run these 2 wires to a contact switch and you’re set. You can even cut the circuit board down to a much smaller area if you’re good a soldering to small traces.

    I’m doing something like this to build a keyboard out of a vintage typewriter. only in my case I’m having to trace and wire up 81 keys!