Automatyperwriter: Arduino-controlled typewriter is both input and output device

Jonathan Guberman from the Site 3 coLaboratory in Toronto made the "Automatypewriter," an Arduino-controlled typewriter that acts as both input and output device. He's rigged it to play Zork!

Each key is attached by fishing line to a solenoid, an electromechanical device that pulls down when electric current is passed through it. The solenoids sit behind and underneath the typewriter in a multi-layer structure. The solenoids are connected to a MOSFET, which allows the lower-power parts of the circuit to control the high-power solenoids.

The MOSFETs are connected in sets of eight to shift registers (integrated circuits that can, amongst other things, expand the number of outputs on a microcontroller). The shift registers are connected to an Arduino, which is connected to a computer via USB. When the computer sends a character to the Arduino, the Arduino chooses which solenoid to fire and sends that information to the shift registers.

The Automatypewriter is a typewriter that can type by itself: (via Make)


  1. > i

    You have:
    A bathrobe (being worn)
    A towel
    Pocket fluff
    Thing That Your Aunt Gave You That You Don’t Know What It Is
    no tea

  2. So Mr. Guberman’s invented the Teletype? How long ’til he’s connected two and they can communicate?

    1. You’re missing the point of this.

      1) It’s made from a typewriter so that makes it steampunk.
      2) It uses an Arduino which is open source and thus *squeal* totally dreamy… *sigh*
      3) It uses fishing line which makes it prone to malfunction and very impractical compared to a real teletype.

      Still, I find it’s lack of punched paper tape disturbing.

      1. I think the difference between this and a teletype is the difference between a gramophone and a player piano. Both produce automatic sound, but the player piano does so by pressing the actual keys.

        This isn’t a typewriter keyboard with a printer attached, it’s a typewriter that’s *operated automatically*. For me, at least, that makes all the difference.

  3. So glad you enjoyed it, Cory! However, I feel compelled to point out that my name is spelled “Jonathan.”


    Jonathan Guberman

      1. That appears to be a teletype with a serial connection, to which somebody has attached a USB-to-serial adapter. I would have to say that doesn’t seem like it counts.

  4. Uh, there are these things called Teletypes. They have been around for about a hundred years. They receive a signal in the ITA2 code set at 75 baud, and they print it on yellow paper.

    Want one? I have a WWII Teletype in an olive-drab shipping crate that’s not doing anything right now.

  5. Nixiebunny,

    I’m on the board of directors for Ace Monster Toys, an Oakland hackerspace (and California nonprofit!). I think I can freely speak for all of us and say that if you don’t want your WWII teletype, we’d happily take it off of your hands to connect it up to things in our space!

    I can be reached at if you’re interested in getting it moved on.

  6. I recall a mid-to-late ’70s-vintage device that hooked up to an IBM Selectric typewriter and recorded a pageful of typing on solid-state memory, which could then be edited a line at a time on a single-line LED(?) display. When you were done editing, it would play the page back to the Selectric, using it as a printer to print out the corrected copy.

    They used to advertise them in the back pages of Scientific American. Bad typist that I was, I desperately wanted one, but couldn’t even afford the Selectric, never mind the “word processor” box.

    (So it was kinda weird, a couple of years ago, finding fully functional IBM Selectrics in a thrift store priced at $10 – and weirder still, a few months later, to find myself giving my own once-treasured Selectric to the same thrift store, in order to reclaim the closet space.)

  7. I think this is great, and don’t understand what bug is up in the panties of all these negative nancies here. The guy created a typewriter that can play Zork, by himself from parts. That’s awesome.

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