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Vim on a Mechanical Typewriter (qqrs.github.io)
73 points by luu on Aug 25, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 21 comments

It's just a keyboard. I thought he was going to do an entire typewriter-based user interface for VIM. The Culler-Fried system in the 1960s used an interface where you could turn the typewriter platen knob to a different line or between lines to type subscripts and superscripts. (Mice hadn't been invented yet.)

I restore old Teletype machines, as I've mentioned before.[1] Keyboard feel on these is interesting. When you press a key, it locks down, the keyboard driveshaft rotates once, and the key releases. Then you can press another key. Effective typing has to be done in rhythm at 5 chars/sec, like playing a piano. You can't press two keys at once; once a key is down, no other key will move.

Because this was annoying to fast typists in the models from 1912 to 1926, in 1930 Teletype put spring-loaded keytops on their keys, allowing about 1/8" of spring loaded travel before you blunted your fingers because the key lever would not move yet. You could then start to press a key before the keyboard unlocked.

The IBM Selectric had one-character type-ahead in an entirely mechanical machine. That was a very nice piece of mechanical engineering. There are Selectrics with electrical I/O, but they are quite rare.

[1] https://vimeo.com/124065314

I can press two keys at once on _my_ piano. And I don't have to play at 5 keys/second.

But as someone who has a model 12 and model 15, I know what you mean.

I'm reading this, thinking there's no way I could game or code on this. 5 chars a second?

You have a working Model 12? I thought there were only two of those still working?

I really wanted this to be about a typewriter that goes to the top and bottom of a piece of paper on 'gg' and 'G'.

There's a guy who makes a living doing this: http://www.usbtypewriter.com/

Also, there's a guy who made a stupid bet regarding this: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/typewriter-odyssey#/story

You can also use an old usb keyboard controller board. Besides the hassle of point to point soldering all keys to the keyboard controller matrix (after mapping all combinations), you get a USB compliant device. Disclaimer : I have never used this technique for a whole keyboard but it worked pretty well to transform an old arcade controler to use mame or to midify an old organ bass pedal.

OK, very nice, but can someone explain the gloves ???

A good start, but I will not be satisfied until I can get a workstation like the ones in Terry Gilliam's brilliant movie Brazil: http://www.oilempire.us/oil-jpg/brazil-lime-computer.jpg

If you do get one, I suggest making a cover for it to prevent squashed bugs from falling in and modifying keystrokes.

Mister systembrigger, I can assure you that there's no problem with bugs...

(for anyone who has not seen the movie:) http://writelephant.com/2015/06/26/typo/

I wanted to go the other way--use a typewritter as a printer.(computer--to modified IBM electric typewriter). Some company manufactured a lid you put over the keys of an IBM typewritter. The lid/cover had little solenoids that push the keys. It looks like the product never took off? I do like the look of typewritten papers. I remember my first dot matrix printer. I thought it looks like a typewritten paper, and the ribbons last forever. I went through college and changed it once? I liked printers up until they chipped the cartridges. I guess I don't value new technology when I have to pay more for it?

And I thought our current open office plan was noisy now, imagine what it would have been like to be working in an office with these things...


It was loud.

Liverpool late 70s: offices tended to be divided into larger numbers of small rooms. Typing in some of them. Really loud phone conversations in others. Relative quiet in others. Electric typewriters quietened things a little.

Wow. The Softpot trick reminds me of the way the Russians bugged typewriters (anyone got that link handy?)

vim is not really the right editor for this — original vi has open mode¹ for printing terminals.


One of the bonuses of this is that you can get a literal "paper trail" of your edit history, which is slightly different from a dumb terminal in that the "local echo" is always on. Not ideal for things like passwords though...

Silly question: does a mechanical typewriter have an escape key? :)

No and the author addresses this in the article saying he mapped 'jj' to Esc. The downside with this choice is he cannot move the cursor down multiple lines in normal mode.

Of course he can. You can map keys for only specific modes (imap, vmap, nmap, etc...).

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