Marek Więcek works at the Museum of Urban Engineering in Cracow, Poland. After the museum received a gift of a ’70s-era T100 teletype, he was asked to investigate the possibility of using it as an interactive exhibit, rather than unmoving “shelfware” on display.
His experiments began with the construction of a PCB interface that allows communication between a USB port and the teletype, using an AT89C2051 microcontroller that he had lying around, along with an FTDI chip. While this worked temporarily, after some damage he decided to instead control the teletype motor with a relay and a microcontroller I/O line.
After redesigning the interface, the final version uses a PIC32MX270F265B microcontroller and a SIM800 GSM module to receive texts. Once text data is received, it prints out a hard copy — similar to something you might have seen on a Cold War-era drama — or stores it on 2MB of SPI flash as a backup if needed.
As seen in the video, it’s now part of a new interactive exhibit, where museum-goers can text the teletype and have it print out whatever they’d like to put on paper. Interestingly, the device is also theoretically capable of sending messages typed on the keyboard, though this functionality has not yet been implemented.