Selectric Typewriter conversions

From: Eric Smith <>
Date: Tue Feb 4 02:39:00 2003

> Does anyone remember what was required to convert an IBM Selectric
> Typewriter to a computer printer? I seem to recall a kit of some sort
> was available, but my memory is
> *really* hazy about that.

There were two ways to do that.

The more common method was to put a thing with one solenoid per key
over the Selectric's keyboard. This had the advantage that no
modification to the Selectric was required.

The more clever (IMHO) mod was to attach seven solenoids to the
Selectric between the keyboard encoding mechanism and the print
mechanism, to directly control the tilt and rotate. And two more
for the carriage return and paper advance. This has the advantage
that you can still use it as a typewriter without having to attach
and remove the solenoid box, and it's potentially less expensive
since it takes nowhere near as many solenoids. I seem to recall
that Don Lancaster wrote a do-it-yourself article about this

Either way, though, you don't end up with a particularly great printer.
The Selectric typewriters weren't meant to be pounded on continuously
at anywhere near their full speed, since that wasn't how typewriters
were used (even by *very* good typists).

IBM made "I/O Selectrics," which had heavy-duty mechanisms intended
for continuous output. Model numbers that come to mind are the
1052 and 753, though my memory regarding these seems more than a
little fuzzy.

There were also Selectric-based terminals like the 2741, which were
AFAIK not quite as heavy-duty as the 1052, but still better than a

Trivia: although the Selectric typewriter wasn't introduced until
1962, the first production units were delivered to customers in 1961,
as part of the operator console for the IBM 7030 Data Processing
System (Stretch). Since it wasn't an announced product, all the
publicity photos of Strech had a person, sign, or other item
strategically placed to obstruct the view of the typewriter.
Received on Tue Feb 04 2003 - 02:39:00 GMT

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