Raspberry Pi revives a Smith Corona word processor
Hands up if you’ve heard of a Smith Corona word processor before. If not, these first couple of paragraphs will serve as helpful background as to why this retrofit project is so cool.
I am too young to be writing like this but: in the before times when we didn’t have computers small enough to cart around, you had to sit at a particular table designated for one specific computer which was basically hardwired into the floor. But then we got wise to the notion that sofas, trains, and hammocks are much nicer places to work than staring at a blank space next to your wall-mounted landline in the hallway, and switched to portable devices.
One of the earliest predecessors of what would come to be the super-slim, internet-enabled portable workstation we now call a “laptop” was a Personal Word Processor. And Redditor /Maz_Baz has restored one such retro beauty to functional glory with a Raspberry Pi.
Old tech, new spec
The maker happened upon this Smith Corona model and loved the “luggable form factor”. However, it had been a little over-loved, and needed a new screen and disk drive. The keyboard was also struggling, having been in heavy use since 1989.
A Raspberry Pi 4 Model B and an Anker power supply replaced the original innards and fitted perfectly in the original power pack slot. A small Vortexgear Core keyboard stepped in for the retired keys, and a 7.9″ Waveshare touchscreen provided a welcome upgrade to the original.
Keyboard and monitor support brackets were 3D-printed, and some “inventive cable management” was required to squeeze everything in, but it all came together brilliantly.
It’s almost harrowing that something designed in such recent memory can be thought of as “steampunk”, but it does kind of have a lovely brutalist, cyberdeck aesthetic. The future is closer than we think. Or is the past getting further away? I’m fine. It’s just January talking. I need sunlight.
Join the club
We found this website featuring a list of famous writers and the models of typewriter they allegedly used, and we are choosing to take the information therein as gospel. This means that /Maz_Baz can now count themselves among such esteemed company as:
- Malcolm Bradbury
- Truman Capote
- e.e. cummings
- Dr. Seuss
- T.S. Eliot
- Ernest Hemingway
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It does seem like an elegant build from an engineering standpoint, but unless you are a prop maker, you need a good reason to gut old hardware and stick a Pi inside. Also, I have a worrying sense that the keyboard may have an RGB backlight.
Always lamented the passing of my PWP 80. If only I had placed it on a shelf somewhere until the Raspberrypi came along.
I love this, I have seen a similar non-working word processor in my local junk shop and wondered if it I could convert it to Pi power. You might have started something!
Raspberry Pi Staff Ashley Whittaker — post author