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Student upgrades a 1930s typewriter for modern-day messaging

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When people restore old typewriters, they mostly just make them (1) look new and (2) usable again. Joe Hounsham from Plymouth University in the UK, however, had other ideas in mind: he took one and upgraded it to connect to the internet. More specifically, Hounsham's device (called Dico) connects you to a random person from a chat room -- in fact, it starts looking for a stranger to talk to as soon as its ultrasonic sensor feels you approaching. The other person's messages are processed by an Arduino microcontroller, which controls the solenoids that pull down the keys on the typewriter. Yes, a piece of paper serves as the device's "screen," and to reply, you need to type on it, too.

Hounsham designed Dico (the Latin word for speaking, talking and playing an instrument) as his senior year project at Plymouth. It won him an IBM Smarter Planet Award, since (according to his website) the company thought it demonstrated "the technical qualities and imagination required to help make the world a Smarter Planet." Sounds like it could be fun to use, especially since it sometimes types up encrypted messages (he wanted the piece to post questions about online security, as well) in the middle of a chat that you can decode with a book he made. Since not everyone's capable of making a version of their own, you can watch Dico in action below or read how Hounsham created it on the IBM blog.

PS: You know what'll make Dico even better, though? If it can also type up images, similar to that typewriter that can create ASCII portraits.

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