Turning a 1930s typewriter into a social networking device

Recent graduate Joe Hounsham has revived a 1930s typewriter as part of his final project at UK’s Plymouth University. Inspired by a presentation on smart technologies, the Maker created a vintage typewriter that services as a communication portal to the rest of the world using an [Atmel based] Arduino. Get ready for the IoT, Internet of Typewriters that is…


Hounsham’s device, dubbed Dico, works by connecting a user to others through Internet forums. As soon as its ultrasonic sensors feel a user approaching, the retrofitted device begins looking for a stranger to engage in online chatter. Meanwhile, the other person’s messages are processed by an Arduino, which controls the solenoids that pull down the typewriter’s keys, and type the message out on paper.

“I was in the University’s Writing Café and they had an old typewriter which didn’t work. I have always really enjoyed taking old technology and giving it new purpose, and suddenly thought it would be great to create a functioning typewriter with a technological twist. It was incredibly challenging to build the hardware, and I had to contact a supplier in Germany to get precisely what I needed, but people had great fun with it and seemed to love the novelty of having a conversation with someone by typewriter,” the Maker reveals.


The communication isn’t just one-way either; in fact, a user can reply into the typewriter which is then sent back in real-time. With security in mind, Hounsham’s system will occasionally encrypt a random message — requiring a booklet to decrypt it.

While we’ve seen a typewriter make music from ordinary sentences and create ASCII portraits, communicating in online chatrooms surely rounds out this Maker trifecta!

3 thoughts on “Turning a 1930s typewriter into a social networking device

  1. Pingback: Rewind: 18 social media-inspired projects you’ll love | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

  2. Pingback: This old-school telegraph sounder can tap out tweets | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

  3. Pingback: 25 Maker projects to celebrate Social Media Day | Atmel | Bits & Pieces

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