DIY IBM Selectric sort balls give ’60s typewriters new life (and Comedian Sans)

DIY IBM Selectric sort balls give ’60s typewriters new life (and Comedian Sans)
DIY IBM Selectric sort balls give ’60s typewriters new life (and Comedian Sans)
IBM Selectwriter typeball
Enlarge / A sort ball from a 1961 IBM Selectric typewriter.

There are some emotions you simply cannot re-create. And to IBM Selectric loyalists, neither beam spring keyboards nor buckling spring designs nor a contemporary mechanical keyboard can replicate the distinct really feel pushed by that legendary sort ball. Within the ’60s and ’70s, the Selectric was an workplace staple, however the progress of PCs and daisy wheels compelled the machine into retirement by 1986. That hasn’t stopped folks from shopping for, restoring, and selling Selectrics, although. The issue is, IBM stopped making the only printing aspect that makes these typewriters so particular. Yow will discover the sort balls on-line, (together with choices claiming to be used and never used) and at shops carrying previous digital parts. However you’d save time and assets if you happen to might make your individual. It took years for somebody to discover a strategy to make the Selectric golf ball 3D-printable, however now somebody claims they’ve.

A tinkerer named Sam Ettinger just lately shared his Selectric sort ball 3D-printing mission on Hackaday and Github and shared the information on Printables, as reported by Hackaday. However beware: These finalized variations have not been examined or printed by their creator. Earlier this month, Ettinger shared a video on Mastodon of the prior model in motion, admitting that some letters weren’t usable.

Ettinger said he typed this using a previous version of his 3D printable type ball featuring a Cherokee layout.
Enlarge / Ettinger mentioned he typed this utilizing a earlier model of his 3D printable sort ball that includes a Cherokee format.

The brand new fashions are reportedly 0.2 mm shorter to handle this and alter the letter rotation, because it was “90 levels off.” Due to this, we will not confirm how profitable these fashions can be in actual use.

Comedian Sans and extra

Ettinger is also selling the Comic Sans type ball for <a href="https://www.shapeways.com/product/26K2XMZS3/comic-sans-typeball-for-the-selectric-typewriter">$36</a>, but we'd be cautious since he hasn't tested this version yet.
Enlarge / Ettinger can be promoting the Comedian Sans sort ball for $36, however we might be cautious since he hasn’t examined this model but.

In addition to eliminating jammed keys by transferring from old-school typewriters’ sort bars, one among Selectric typewriters’ niftiest options was the power to swap out golf balls and alter the typewriters’ typefaces and languages, from worldwide languages to the APL programming language and scientific notation (if you happen to want extra assist understanding why persons are nonetheless hooked on Selectrics, this YouTube video from keyboard fanatic Chyrosran22 might assist).

A 1971 IBM Selectric II in blue.
Enlarge / A 1971 IBM Selectric II in blue.

Ettinger’s sort balls observe this similar spirit by providing Comic Sans (drawing from Jesse England’s 2014 Comic Sans typewriter), in addition to Windows’ Tifinagh keyboard layout within the Ebrima typeface and Home windows’ Cherokee Nation keyboard layout within the Digohweli typeface. Every ball requires a “bent wire,” the Printables pages say, or Selectric ball clip, for which designs are additionally out there by way of Printables, with a purpose to work.

Constructing on earlier work

Ettinger thinks these DIY golf balls enhance on earlier makes an attempt, attributing due to the work of Steve Malikoff, which made an formidable, however flawed, DIY-type ball utilizing OpenSCAD. In 2020, Malikoff detailed efforts to 3D-print his sort ball with an FDM printer however struggled to make sharp edges on plastic as a substitute of metallic, like the unique IBM golf balls use.

Ettinger, turning to the powers of a resin printer, mentioned he modified “most” of Malikoff’s sort ball dimensions and the way the characters are generated for the automated course of. As famous by Hackaday, a 3D-printed ball does not have the sturdiness of metallic balls. However beggars cannot be choosers.

A rendering of the Tifinagh type ball.
Enlarge / A rendering of the Tifinagh sort ball.

With its superior capabilities, from mistake correction to introducing magnetic recording know-how (hiya, early digital phrase processing!), you’ll be able to’t have a real dialog about how we obtained to fashionable computing enter with out nodding to the Selectric. These devoted to the legend might now have a brand new strategy to preserve their machines alive—or at the least useful work to construct upon.

We look ahead to seeing somebody print out and take a look at Ettinger’s fashions to verify in the event that they do IBM’s machines justice. Even higher, folks might use Ettinger’s work to create extra choices for DIY balls, from further typefaces to extra languages and even perhaps higher designs. Lengthy reside the golf ball.