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What if a typewriter could respond to questions you enter?

I answered that question several years ago with a project I called Termi. I salvaged a vintage TI Silent 700 electric typewriter/terminal (Model 745) and connected it to a Raspberry Pi Zero W that ran a script to query Wolfram Alpha. When the user typed a question into the typewriter, it would type out the answer …like a 1976 version of Siri.

For example, a simple exchange might look like:

Question: who is the president of the United States?
Answer: the current president of the United States is Joe Biden
Termi2 is a reimagined version of that project, but better. I’m both reusing vintage hardware (the TI Silent 700) and the original idea in order to improve upon one of my favorite projects.

What’s changed?

The basic concept is still the same: the user types a question, then Wolfram Alpha answers that question and the response automatically types out.

But all of the hardware, aside from the TI Silent 700 itself, is different. I realized that an SBC (Single-Board Computer) was overkill for this project and introduced unnecessary complications. For example, it required that the user log into the Linux terminal at startup, took a while to boot, and necessitated a specific question command structure and some strange formatting.

Termi2 now uses an ESP32 to handle the same functionality in a much more streamlined way. When powered on, it takes just a few seconds to connect to WiFi and prompt the user for a question. The user can type that question any way they like—no special commands or formatting necessary. Within a few seconds, a short answer from Wolfram Alpha (which can process a wide range of queries) will print out.

The new hardware also eliminates the need for the Arduino adapter I created for the original and runs on a lithium battery, so no additional power adapter is needed.


TI Silent 700 Terminal (Model 745)
ESP32 Development Board
SN74LVC245A level shifter IC
Battery charging/distribution module
Lithium-ion battery (between 250-1000mAh should work)
Power switch
Female DA-15 connector

Soldering iron
3D printer
Computer (for programming ESP32)
Hot glue gun

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