Twittertape Machine brings antiquated charm to social networking
By Paul Ridden
March 20, 2012
The stock ticker was invented around 150 years ago and was still in use as recently as the late 1960s, when computers and television caused its obsolescence. It kept traders up to speed on the latest prices in readable text on a thin strip of paper and, by necessity, messages were very short. These days, many of us receive short news updates via Twitter on a computer or smartphone screen. Adam Vaughan's Twittertape Machine elegantly brings those two worlds together in a device that connects to his Twitter account via Ethernet, checks for updates twice every minute, and prints out a hard copy of any new Tweets without the need for printer ink.
Vaughan told us that the idea for the Twittertape Machine was born of a desire to have the kind of old stock ticker seen in movies sitting on his desk. After a lukewarm reception to his pitch from friends, he decided to make his dream a reality. Rather than sacrifice a rare original (like the Edison Universal Stock Ticker used for Ames Bielenberg's Spring Break project), he opted to build his own replica version from some old brass clock movements, a wooden plinth and a glass dome found online.
"The design of the machine was my own and really evolved during the build as I was guided by the materials I had available to me and my own ability (or sometimes lack thereof) to work with them," said Vaughan. "I'm not a model builder and have never done anything like this before so it really did take me some time before I had something I felt happy enough to show other people. I was aiming for something that looked as if it could legitimately have come from the last century and that I would be proud to display on my desk."
The proof of concept, completely stand-alone prototype is powered by two AC adapters and features a network-enabled Arduino-style microcontroller running custom code in the base. The board has been programmed to check Vaughan's Twitter account every 30 seconds for new Tweets. If anything new has arrived, it's printed out onto the roll of cut-down thermal till receipt paper (BPA-free of course) using a tiny thermal printer hidden in the base.
Such has been the response to his machine that Vaughan is currently designing an improved version which could then be offered for sale. Version 2 would have its power source reduced to just one adapter and be Wi-Fi-enabled instead of physically connected to a router. Users of this version would also be able to access a secure User Control Panel via the network to set up one or more Twitter accounts, or other sources such as Facebook, Google Plus, or RSS feeds. Other features are being added to the list all the time.
"I wouldn't like to guess at a possible price point for a production model," Vaughan told us. "I'm not far enough down that particular road yet."
We'll be keeping a close eye on this project and will let you know when a production model becomes available.