USB Typewriter: Where does the carbon paper go?

Creative modder turns the old machines into retro-style keyboards that hook up to any USB-capable computer to let you type like it's 1948.

The carriage on this old Remington doesn't advance as you type, meaning it won't work as a regular typewriter. But the USB Typewriter mod allows it to operate as a keyboard for a PC, Mac, or iPad Etsy/usbtypewriter

Miss the good old-fashioned manual typewriter? The USB Typewriter, a "new and groundbreaking innovation in the field of obsolescence," according to its creator, turns the old machines into retro-style keyboards that hook up to any USB-capable computer to let you type like it's 1948.

Jack Zylkin, who humorously describes himself as "a reclusive genius with 57 cats," created the peripheral with materials provided at Hive76, a maker co-op in Philadelphia where Zylkin does his tinkering. In the video below, you can see it click-clacking away attached to an iPad.

The USB Typewriter consists of a sensor board that clips underneath the typewriter key, and a USB interface board that features an Atmega168P microcontroller chip, a USB Type B socket, and supporting components like a power supply, crystal oscillator, and USB voltage conversion. The USB interface board controls the operation of the sensor board, sending keystrokes to the host computer over USB.

Software design is based on the open-source Arduino microcontroller platform.

Typewriter aficionados trying to keep one foot in this century can purchase a USB Typewriter at crafts site Etsy for somewhere between $400 and $500 (yikes!), or buy a kit and make one themselves. Zylkin also does custom jobs. He promises the mod won't change the outward appearance of the typewriter (except for the USB adapter itself, which is mounted in the rear of the machine). Liquid Paper not included.

About the author

Leslie Katz, Crave's senior editor, heads up a team that covers the most crushworthy (and wackiest) tech, science, and culture around. As a co-host of the now-retired CNET News Daily Podcast, she was sometimes known to channel Terry Gross and still uses her trained "podcast voice" to bully the speech recognition software on automated customer service lines. E-mail Leslie.


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