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Classic Games (Games) Hardware Hacking Input Devices Games Build Hardware Idle

Typewriter Hacked To Play Zork 77

Posted by samzenpus
from the old-school dept.
UgLyPuNk writes "Typewriters that can type by themselves are one thing. Typewriters that can type by themselves and play Zork are totally different — the stuff that dreams are made of (at least the dreams of little girls who spent hours in front of a Commodore 64 telling the machine to GO NORTH and such)."
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Typewriter Hacked To Play Zork

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    • by Joseph Vigneau (514) on Monday November 01, 2010 @11:23AM (#34090730)

      For more information on this model:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASR-33_Teletype [wikipedia.org]

    • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Monday November 01, 2010 @12:05PM (#34091286) Homepage Journal
      No sir. It's a legitimate mechanical typewriter, not a teletype. The disappointment you are looking for is in that it's Arduino-controlled, instead of having been mechanically engineered to actually play the game. This is confusing because Slashdot summaries usually mention the Arduino if they have the chance. But I guess the drive to be blatantly wrong in TFS is more powerful than the drive to plug nerdy products.
      • by HTH NE1 (675604)

        Also all the more impressive due to it being an all-mechanical typewriter controlled by an Arduino, as opposed to, say, an IBM Selectric with a built-in RS-232 interface, which would make it as easy as playing Zork over a modem. Well, with a translation table from ASCII to control code for the golfball print head (and avoidance of unsupported characters).

        Not that a Selectric typewriter isn't a fascinating design in itself.

      • by kheldan (1460303)
        I didn't "say" anything, I posted a link to a picture, which you interpreted any way that pleased you; don't put words in my mouth.
        • I would tend to say that the karma you ended up with (100% informative, no insightful!) suggests that it wasn't read that way. Hopefully you can forgive me for making the same mistake that three moderators did, and will consider changing what you consider to be clear communication.
    • by EWAdams (953502)
      Seriously... why would you hack up a mechanical typewriter when a mechanical teleprinter already exists? Unless you want lower case, that is. :)
      • by Suzuran (163234)

        Later model teletypes had lower-case letters. Mine even has graphics printing capability.

      • Probably because the mechanical typewriters are plentifully available, but an ASR-33 in working order is a bit harder to find.

  • ...though we called it a "printer". Also, are there any pictures of the thing from the front? Not everyone has the ability to view videos. All I can see are some internals pictures on the project page.
    • No You Didn't ... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Monday November 01, 2010 @11:28AM (#34090796) Journal

      ...though we called it a "printer". Also, are there any pictures of the thing from the front? Not everyone has the ability to view videos. All I can see are some internals pictures on the project page.

      Printers don't generally accept feedback. I know you can't view the video but what you see is a typewriter (with the keys moving) typing out the opening to Zork and then the user issuing it a few commands on the same typewriter keys that then come back to life and respond. This level of interaction is unique and I've never seen a "printer" with that sort of functionality. If you're interested in how it displays the output:

      computer to Arduino (via USB); Arduino to shift registers; shift registers to MOSFETs; MOSFETs to solenoids; solenoids to keys.

      And to acquire input flattened resistors are placed beneath each key and are converted into a serialized device signal to the computer via USB. Not exactly earth shattering work but for the hobbyist that likes to see clever hacks and remembers Zork, it's a grin achieving piece of work.

      • by Cstryon (793006)

        Kind of reminds me of Fringe! Except there are no mirrors, or windows to alternate universes. Ah I love nerdy stuff!

      • This level of interaction is unique and I've never seen a "printer" with that sort of functionality.

        Before CRTs became commonplace it was routine to interact with a computer through a teletype. That is the primary reason for the terseness of the standard unix commands. Line editors like ed are much less opaque when your command input is being recorded on paper.

        • by BitterOak (537666)

          This level of interaction is unique and I've never seen a "printer" with that sort of functionality.

          Before CRTs became commonplace it was routine to interact with a computer through a teletype. That is the primary reason for the terseness of the standard unix commands. Line editors like ed are much less opaque when your command input is being recorded on paper.

          The very first time I ever played a text adventure was Dungeon on a DECwriter hardcopy terminal. I kept the printouts for some time after that, but I'm afraid by now, they've been lost. I was about 8 years old at the time, and it was at an open house at the university in the town where I grew up. I remember my dad having to drag me away. It was several years later before I had a chance to play a text adventure again. (A stripped down version of Adventure on a Commodore PET with 8K of RAM.) I remember

      • This level of interaction is unique and I've never seen a "printer" with that sort of functionality.

        I have, it's called a "teletype console", and it's old, old tech. It's a cool hack, but it's nothing new.

      • Printers don't generally accept feedback. I know you can't view the video but what you see is a typewriter (with the keys moving) typing out the opening to Zork and then the user issuing it a few commands on the same typewriter keys that then come back to life and respond.

        Nifty, so it's a teletype. Odd this word wasn't used in the article headline, as you'd think any real computer geek would know what that is.

    • by Suzuran (163234)

      No, we called a Teletype. TTY for short.

  • by Monkey-Man2000 (603495) on Monday November 01, 2010 @11:21AM (#34090682)
    At least for me: http://vimeo.com/16311288 [vimeo.com]
  • Instead of the Screen for the input and output they turned it to a piece of paper - which takes longer so it's not entirely practical.

    That being said, if this were around when Typewriters were still used widespread - this might have helped some people transition to computers.

    However, the more I think about games like that I used to play, and how frustrating it was trying to convey what it is you wanted to do while sticking to the constraints of their input language... I mean coupled with how long it takes f

    • by bmo (77928)

      The point wasn't efficiency or practicality there.

      The point was to make a piece of art, which is what this is.

      If the person wanted to do "just" a paper terminal, one could probably find (well maybe not, it's been a while) a paper TTY (like an ASR33 or 43) to just plug into a serial port to USB adaptor and play Zork that way.

      But that wouldn't be interesting, or fun. Reinventing an ASR33 through off-the-shelf components plus a used typewriter is.

      --
      BMO

      • Indeed, while hopelessly impractical and rough to common standards as a tool or game it still is very very cool as a statement! of course if you look at it from an 'ease of use' , 'gameplay' or 'previous art' standpoint it really isn't much. Interaction is very slow, gameplay is outdated and tty existed since ancient Greece. But this isn't a game nor is it a patent application. It's just a knowledgeable pal hacking on a typewriter for hours on some Sunday afternoon because he just could and maybe nostalgia
    • Heh, the only text adventures I really played heavily were the so called Time & Magik trilogy. I remember playing enough to beat 2/3 (Lords of Time and Red Moon), but I'd always get killed, age to death, or go insane trying to get through the Price of Magik.

    • Re:So basically (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Abcd1234 (188840) on Monday November 01, 2010 @12:00PM (#34091232) Homepage

      Instead of the Screen for the input and output they turned it to a piece of paper - which takes longer so it's not entirely practical.

      Holy christ... you can tell how far Slashdot has fallen, as far as "News for Nerds" goes, when people are criticizing the *practicality* of something *truly* nerdy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jrobot (1239050)

      Waste is the highest virtue one can achieve in an advanced capitalist society. The fact that this guy bought paper from Canada and wasted vast quantities playing Zork put an extra spin in the global economy, and that extra spin lifted capitalism to yet greater heights. If you put an end to all the waste, mass panic would ensue and the global economy would go haywire. Waste is the fuel of contradiction, and contradiction activates the economy, and an active economy creates more waste.

  • Trek? Roguelikes? (Score:4, Informative)

    by bughunter (10093) <bughunter.earthlink@net> on Monday November 01, 2010 @11:35AM (#34090870) Journal

    My very first computer game was TREK.BAS, hosted on a city hall computer and played on a DecWriter paper terminal hidden in a janitor's closet at my St. Petersburg, FL middle school.

    Why the janitor's closet? Because that's where they could get to a phone line.

    This machine could replicate that experience.

    (OK, well, you'd have to pour some ammonia and pine sol on it, to really take me back, but I'm talking about the game...)

  • Why ? ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Monday November 01, 2010 @11:36AM (#34090884) Homepage Journal
    No, not why did they do it - that part is obvious. Rather, why did they write such a short meaningless summary and then embed a flash 10 video in it? The website is damned close to worthless for anyone who isn't running the latest flash.
    • Flash 10 has been around for ages, and older versions of Flash are filled with known exploits. I can't think of a good reason why you'd want to keep an older version of Flash, unless you really want some malware.

      You can make the argument that we should abandon Flash and go straight HTML5, except most people aren't running browsers with proper HTML5 support yet. If you think demanding people have Flash 10 is asking people to be needlessly up-to-date, requiring a HTML5 browser is even more so.

      • Flash 10 has been around for ages

        Which doesn't change the fact that it doesn't work well with a lot of systems. Even current hardware on certain operating systems cannot run flash 10 very well; for that matter flash 10 is so absurdly CPU intensive that it really can't be said to run that well on modern hardare with recent microsoft or apple OSes, either.

        I can't think of a good reason why you'd want to keep an older version of Flash, unless you really want some malware.

        I can think of plenty of worthwhile systems that are incapable of running flash 10. And plenty of other systems that are so crippled by flash 10 to make it not worth running on them, ei

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        Yeah, point me to a reliably-updated version of it for the amd64 platform on linux and maybe I'll run it. For now I'm sticking to gnash, and that doesn't support flash v10. HTML5 is of course preferred...

  • I really wish I still had all my green-bar output from the decwriter I used to play adventure, tic-tac-toe, and even Star Trek. I think one game of that generated more than 100 pages (and took about 8 hours to play).

    More than that, I can't for the life of me remember how exactly I *got* to the games, being a little kid; I remember it was a PDP-something, but no idea what the OS was.

    Regardless, this looks like an awesome hack and makes me wish I'd kept that old IBM Selectric I had for years and years....it h

  • by Danathar (267989) on Monday November 01, 2010 @11:40AM (#34090940) Journal

    Given that Zork was originally run on the PDP-10 back in the late 70's chances are it already ran on a paper driven console..WHEN IT FIRST CAME OUT.

  • This is very cool, and I'm sure they got quite a kick out of interacting with the game in this way. And for the people that are saying this is impractical or a waste of paper - you're missing the point entirely. It's not like this something to be marketed or used extensively. It was done because someone had some originality coupled with technical prowess.

    Now for my gripe. I was hoping they had written some new firmware / software for an existing typewriter's controller / CPU, as opposed to using thoroughly

    • by tibit (1762298)

      Yeah, I too was expecting to see a more modern CPU-controlled electronic typewriter, or even a word processor, hacked to get Zork running on it. They are in plentiful supply in some thrift stores.

  • climb tree > "look an egg" > take egg > open egg > "you don't have the tools or expertise to do that" Whats Inside The Egg!?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jspayne (98716)
      I forget what's inside the egg, but if you are carrying it when you meet the thief, he will steal it. Then later in the game, when you find the thief's lair, you will find the egg opened.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by LoP_XTC (312463)

        I forget what's inside the egg, but if you are carrying it when you meet the thief, he will steal it. Then later in the game, when you find the thief's lair, you will find the egg opened.

        If I remember correct it was like a wind-up mechanical bird. You could either leave the egg laying around, or let it get stolen from your inventory. Either way it was always a pain to remember how long you had to wait before you could kill the thief and the egg would be open.

        Aaron

  • by karlandtanya (601084) on Monday November 01, 2010 @11:47AM (#34091028)

    I think it was actually called Star Trek at the time, but at some point, people started calling it "Space War".
    We had eliza, and dungeon, too, and a chat program called "connect".
    Once the connect fans had a party in the basement of one of the dorms, because they had really nice computer equipment. VT50s.
    They all sat at their terminals and "chat"ted with each other. While in the same room.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rnturn (11092)
      I recall once a couple of us playing startrek on the school's HP3000 via a Teletype at 110 baud. (Tip: don't play with someone who's in the habit of asking for a map of the galaxy every other turn.)
    • by hoggoth (414195)

      We've come a long way since then.

      Now they sit in the same room, send text messages to each other, and update their facebook pages about each other.

    • by operagost (62405)
      Now 14 year olds text each other in the same room. Young people are still dumb :-P
    • 20 years ago, I sent an email to a coworker who sat in the desk next to mine. When he complained, I apologized and promised to phone him the next time.
  • But if he had interfaced a Mag Card, THAT would have been impressive. And very different.

    Mag Cards used a transmit block to code keystrokes to the processor. Selectric mechanism printed, and yes they used magentic cards (about 3"x8") to store data. The whole thing was not much different in size than a Xerox 860, except that the Mag card had a typewriter in place of the monitor & keyboard.

    And of course, the Selectric takes a bit more maintenance, maybe. Those SCM typewriters had their problems, and th

  • by __roo (86767) on Monday November 01, 2010 @12:05PM (#34091284) Homepage

    Some of us actually grew up playing Adventure (still playable online today -- wow! [dyne.org]) on something that looks suspiciously similar to that! In my case, a LA36 DECWriter II [columbia.edu], which apparently came standard with hippie dress, porn mustache and butterfly collar [microsoft.com]. I think I still have the old 300 baud acoustic coupler modem lying around somewhere.

  • Way back, in the far distant past, you could buy kits to make your IBM selectric connect to a serial port, and it would work as both a printer and a keyboard.

    There were also kits available to us many common electric typewriters as printers, by putting a solenoid above every key.

    And many of the later electronic typewriters came with a serial port.

    Or you could have bought one of the letter-quality daisy wheel terminals, which could often be used as a typewriter.

    It doesn't even appear that they used a manual t

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Monday November 01, 2010 @12:35PM (#34091730)
    Yeah, but...can it display Kindle books?
  • Selectric Adapters (Score:3, Informative)

    by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:16PM (#34092318)
    In the early 80s, my "80-Micro" magazines used to have ads for a gadget that turned an IBM Selectric typewriter into a computer printer. You fit the device over the keyboard of your typewriter and it had a set of solenoids and plungers that, when signalled, pressed the appropriate keys, causing the typewriter to 'type.' I remember watching these beasties at trade shows - It was almost creepy.

    Back in the day almost every office had an IBM Selectric, so this provided a means of getting a "letter quality" printer into an office during a time when a letter quality printer could cost $1500 or more ($3000+ in today's dollars).
  • can it communicate with alternate universes?

  • Steampunk... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Chruisan (1040302)
    With a little bit of accessorizing, this would make a cool steampunk gadget.
  • by Orgasmatron (8103)

    This gives me an idea. I think I might head out to the pending recycle pile and rescue a pair of IBM Selectrics. Not as cool as rigging up ~50 solenoids to tug on the keys of a mechanical typewriter, but still cool.

  • One of the happiest days of my childhood was when I discovered that 'N' was every bit as effective as 'Go North.' Sad, but true.
  • hahaha this is awesome. maybe hack that machine to play super mario too? Learn DSLR Video Store [learndslrvideostore.com]

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