See what happens when a Maker adds voice recognition to her old Smith Corona.
Long before the days of laptops and tablets, there existed a thing called “the typewriter” much like the Smith Corona owned by YouTuber Zip Zaps. For decades, this device was a fixture in offices throughout the world along with its respective secretary donning a headset. These employees would listen to recordings on tiny micro-casettes and proceed to turn their bosses’ spoken words into print.
No question that the times have changed, but rather than discard her obsolete piece of equipment, Zip Zaps decided to automate the process of converting dictation into words. The Maker notes that she made it a point to interface with the typewriter in a way that a user typically would. In other words, hitting the keys from above and using the return arm to advance a new line.
To accomplish this, she retrofitted her Smith Corona with 24 servos powered by a Pololu servo controller, a Big Easy Driver board and an Arduino. Half of those servos are responsible for moving a small actuator down onto the keys, while the second half move the others above the correct row of the keyboard. Beyond that, the carriage return lever is actuated by a stepper motor, linear rail and giant plastic lever.
The entire system is controlled by a little code she wrote herself, while the speech-to-text conversion is handled by Windows’ built-in voice recognition. As impressive as this may sound, you’ve got to see it in action!