If you were around before desktop computers were commonplace in-home, then you probably remember the teletype. Well folks, the old school communication device is making a comeback, thanks to the efforts of a self-proclaimed nerd by the name of Robert Coggeshall (co-programmer of sudo), and of course, the popular Raspberry-Pi SBC.
Teletypes fell off the radar with the advent of the fax machine and personal computer, but for some (like Sudo Bob), having retro devices that are much more difficult to use than the newer gadgets brings a certain level of nostalgia. It’s like rushing home to use your corded home phone, even though you have a cell phone, just because you still like wrapping that curly cord all around the living room furniture. Ah. It gets you every time.
Regardless, Sudo Bob resurrected the teletype just because he can. He snagged a spare teletype from another 70s kid from the NYC Resistor crew at the 2013 Maker Faire and the rest is history. Oh glorious teletype, you have returned!
With a 2-Channel Relay Module, Raspberry-Pi, N-Channel Mosfet, 200 OHM 1 Watt Resistor, 24VDC Wall Wart, F<>F Rainbow Jumper Wiring and a little rewiring, the 50-year-old device has been fully restored. Bob also used the Raspbian Wheezy distro and ran the Ras Pi headless for coding, but use your own discretion if you’re building your own.
If you’ve got an old teletype you’re looking to restore as well, check out Sudo Bob’s blog for the full specs and building process for making your own.
0 thoughts on “Programmer Revives Teletype With Raspberry Pi”
The Pi isn’t needed to revive the Teletype machine. Maybe some cleaning, maybe some mechanical work, but they went away because they were big, heavy, noisy and slow. And editing with a paper readout is horrible.
If it was an ASCII machine, it could be used with any serial port, assuming the port could be set to a slow enough rate, mechanical machines set their speed, slow or slower, with gears, not switches.
If it was a 5bit TTY machine, it would need that, software to convert ascii to 5bit, and back. Forty years ago, it might have taken external hardware to do that conversion, since computers were so simple, and an external box just might make it simpler. But now, any computer can do the work, it doesn’t need a Pi.
To revive a TTY machine in this day and age needs a reason more than anything else,
And that “why” is missing here.
Why? Because it’s a fun project. You might as well ask “why?” about most of the projects here.
What’s shown *is* a 5-bit machine (notice the 5 codebars across the front?) . And the biggest issue is that modern UARTs, for the most part, do not support 5-bit any more. The old 8251 does, but I’m pretty sure the ubiquitous FTDI chips used today do not. So you’ll be bit-banging that BAUDOT. The Pi (or maybe even an Arduino) is nice, because it can buffer and convert, making the old 5-bit machine look like an 8-bit one to a PC…as long as you don’t overflow the receive buffer, but that’s what the RTS/CTS lines are for :-)
Nice job. The big problem is gonna be finding typewriter ribbons!
The ‘why’ is ‘…Sudo Bob resurrected the teletype just because he can.’
To answer the “why”, we do an entire steampunk telegraph office each year at the Clockwork Alchemy steampunk convention in San Jose. Anyone can text in a message from their phone. Telegrams are printed on a Teletype like the one Bob has. Ours is in a brass and glass case. Costumed messengers deliver the telegrams. “https://vimeo.com/97062822”
As for the technology, we use a USB to serial converter to get 45 baud, 5 bits, no parity, 1.5 stop bits. We drive it with the proper 60mA at 120VDC. It’s running off a Python program on a subnotebook. All the technical details are here: “http://www.aetherltd.com”.
We also have a little Model 14 tape printer in a brass, glass, and wood box. We usually run it off of a RSS news feed, so it’s constantly typing real world news on a long thin tape.
Ribbons are easy to get. These machines run on Underwood typewriter ribbons. Our web site has a page on sources for supplies.
I wouldn’t run one of those machines with the covers off in a public setting. There are exposed live electrical connections and gears.