technology

Has anyone converted a typewriter to an ASCII Art printer (and it works with Linux)

Written by ebookingservices

Typewriters have passed away, but some people are still interested in using them, although not in the original form in which they were created. One of them is YouTube user Artillect, who has converted an old Brother AX-25 from the late 1980s on a unique printer capable of printing ascii art and Linux terminal commands.

The young man has been embarking on this project for years, but now he has finally reached an interesting level of progress. The Brother AX-25 was more advanced than mechanical typewriters. It worked connected to the current, had an automatic correction system, an LCD screen, the possibility of writing in bold, italics or underlined and other functions.

However, it was still a typewriter. It ran on tape and wrote as the keys were pressed, although it had the ability to “store” documents in its small 8KB memory to print them out later. This hardware with some added elements like a Raspberry Pi, multiplexers and an Arduino Uno has allowed to expand its functionality.

Transforming a typewriter into a printer

How did you do it? The young man connected the typewriter to a circuit with two multiplexers controlled by an Arduino Uno microcontroller. This, in turn, is connected to a Raspberry Pi board linked with a USB cable to a computer running Linux. This contraption allows Artillect print everything that happens in the terminal of the operating systemincluding documents, albeit to a limited extent.

“You can do almost anything you want in a terminal, but since paper isn’t made of pixels, there’s no way to use full-screen editors like vim, Emacs, or Nano,” explains the project’s creator. “Fortunately, Unix was designed for use in tickers, so I can use a line-based editor to edit text,” he adds.

As we can see in the video, Artillect plays with Linux terminal commands, creates a file and writes “Hello world!” inside it. Also experiment with ASCII Art and try printing a kitten image downloaded from asciiart.eu. And he does not forget to explain all the difficulties that he had during the development of his idea and the ones that he still has to overcome in order to move forward.

For the more technical users, Artillect shared the details of his work on GitHub. So if you are one of them and you want to take a look at the project, you can do it, you can even be inspired to carry out your own initiative. Of course, you should get a typewriter with the same characteristics.

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