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USBTypewriter: The Ultimate Retro Keyboard

The iPad's onscreen keyboard, being virtual, has absolutely no key travel, which can make it hard to type for those of us whose fingers expect the keys to move. Obviously, any Bluetooth keyboard will work with the iPad, but what if you really want to slam on those keys? You need a USBTypewriter, advertised on its site as "a new and groundbreaking innovation in the field of obsolescence."

As the name implies, it's an old-style manual typewriter with a USB microcontroller, and will work as a normal keyboard with any computer. Add the iPad Camera Connection Kit's USB adapter, set the iPad on the carriage, and you have a Typewriter Dock. Watch its YouTube video to see it in all its retro glory.

I was particularly amused to see the USBTypewriter and Typewriter Dock because, at Macworld Expo San Francisco in 2007, when Apple introduced the iPhone, I came across a manual typewriter in the lobby of one of the big hotels. Entranced, I couldn't resist typing "iPhone" on the paper and taking a picture of the old technology announcing the new.

You can actually buy a USBTypewriter for between $400 and $500, and if you have your own manual typewriter already, you can either order a pre-fab kit for $150 or get the USBTypewriter's creator, Jack Zylkin, to customize yours for $200. Or, if you're really handy, you can use the Creative Commons-licensed design documents to do all the work yourself.


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Comments about USBTypewriter: The Ultimate Retro Keyboard
(Comments are closed.)

John Baxter  2010-06-14 14:57

Having (formally) learned to type on such a machine [with the Selectric still years in the future and electrics not really "in" yet], I am ready. (Informally, I learned on an old 3-bank Corona (pre-Smith-Corona)--three rows of keys with two levels of shifting per key.)

If I had not forsworn buying new nifty gadgets, I might well have wound up with one of these. It would have sat next to the PDP-8 on a chip with proper front panel I could have gotten through Steve Gibson's web site.
Scott Rose  2010-06-14 17:09
Ha! Now THAT is a waste of money. But fun to look at.
Steven  2010-06-21 21:21
"This video has been removed by the user."
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-06-22 05:00
YouTube can be very annoying. I've found another copy of the video and linked it in.
Charles Reeves Jr  2010-06-22 05:50
I had to look at the date on this issue to be sure it wasn't April 1st... I found it really hard to believe anybody would go to that much expense and trouble to covert their old typewriter into a computer keyboard. A manual typewriter would have to be at least partially disassembled so that some kind of transducer could be attached to *each* key.

And I got the same note about the video on YouTube, after Adam posted a new copy.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-06-22 11:19
Yeah, it's truly wacky, but I love seeing people do real-world technology mashups.
Quentin North  2010-06-22 08:56
This makes me want a USB ASR33 teletype, or a DECWriter LA36, or even an old ADM-3A or Tektronix 4010 with an iPad for a screen.
Davi P.  2010-06-22 10:23
How about a software solution? Mount your iPhone or webcam so it has a closeup view of the character being typed on the paper, and do OCR to capture each character. It would be good to recognize a backspace too.