Automatypewriter, a semiotic interaction with fiction


Automatype- writer is a typewriter that works on its own: the buttons operate automatically, writing on the sheet without the need to type. The machine is also capable to detect human text and elaborate plausible answers in various ways. Jonathan M. Guberman has designed and developed it as a new game interface for old adventure games like Zork, those, it is worth remembering, in which the interaction and descriptions of environments were made exclusively by text. The keys of a classic typewriter are connected to some solenoids, which are connected to a computer via a breadboard, programmable with Arduino. The response text is converted into electrical impulses that “pull down” the keys corresponding to letters needed to write the answer, through scripts in Python and Rezrov, an “interactive fiction interpreter” written in Perl. The text will automatically be printed on the sheet, as by an old “printer.” The vintage look of this object, however, betrays a highly innovative feature.
The typewriter is the symbol of journalism and, generally, of writers. Its symbolic density makes its transformation into an interface for a text adventure very relevant on a semiotic level. Instead of being a simple player the user assumes the role of a co-author, since he uses the instrument of authorship par excellence (even the typewriter). The level of interaction reaches a very high degree, similar to that of a proto-AI. And this not only thanks to implementing the technology and mechanics on which the operation is based, but above all for the project’s clear conceptual operation.

Chiara Ciociola