Turning a 1920s Typewriter Into a MIDI Drum Machine

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Music producer and developer William Sun Petrus took a vintage 1920s Remington typewriter and turned it into a electronic drum machine. The keys trigger a MIDI controller via an Arduino. The sound is then interpreted by Ableton music mixing software.

This is a Remington portable typewriter, made in the 1920s. I’ve attached a lot of wires, an Arduino, and plugged it in. It now makes cool noises. ..whenever a hammer contacts with the “live plate”, it will send a signal to the Arduino. The Arduino recognises which hammer has been pressed and fires a signal into my PC via the cable, and into Ableton. Ableton sees some MIDI information and understands that it needs to trigger that specific sound.

Petrus first mixed the sound to exclude the “clacking noise” of the typewriter. He also released an unedited video that includes the noise.

via The Awesomer