Bottom line: Repurposing obsolete hardware is a popular pastime among the tech community, and the latest project from the YouTube channel Artillect is a fine example of what’s possible when thinking outside of the box. Is it practical? No, not really. Is it neat? Absolutely.
Riley took a Brother AX-25 electronic typewriter from the late 1980s that utilizes a daisy wheel to print text and spruced it up with some modern hardware. The AX-25 features a 16-character LCD capable of editing documents stored on its 8kb of memory but of course, we can do better today.
It’s still a work in progress but at this stage, the typewriter is connected to a breadboard circuit with two multiplexers that are controlled by an Arduino Uno.
The Arduino is connected to a Raspberry Pi over serial with a voltage divider in the middle to convert the Arduino’s 5v output to 3.3v, thus preventing the Raspberry Pi from getting damaged. It is also connected to a laptop via USB. The link allows Riley to use the typewriter as a Linux terminal although admittedly, functionality is somewhat limited.
The contraption is quite handy for creating ASCII art, however, as Riley demonstrated. He didn’t want to create a piece that was too detailed until he gets a replacement ribbon for the typewriter, but the small example looks great.
Riley uploaded the code he wrote for the system to GitHub for those interested in tinkering around with their own project. There are even some examples of the typewriter for sale on eBay if you’re looking for this exact model.
The YouTuber eventually wants to turn the machine into a fully functioning computer, and the next step will be to hook up a keyboard to the Arduino so he doesn’t have to use another computer to control it. We will keep an eye on this project to see how it evolves over the coming weeks and months.