Q&A-Like Siri on a 1976 Paper Terminal

As described in Cameron Coward’s excellent write-up, the TI Silent 700 Model 745, though it looks similar, and has an Intel 8080…

Jeremy S. Cook
3 years ago

As described in Cameron Coward’s excellent write-up, the TI Silent 700 Model 745, though it looks similar, and has an Intel 8080 microprocessor inside, is not a computer. It’s a device meant to interface with a remote computer. This is accomplished via a serial connection, or another interesting piece of retro-tech, an acoustic coupling.

After seeing one of these at an industrial auction, he decided that it would make an awesome retro-computing project in the form of a sort of 70s Siri/Alexa/Google Now. In this setup, the user types in a question, and out pops the answer on the terminal’s “display,” a roll of thermal paper.

In theory, this should be very easy to interface with a modern computing device, since it uses serial communication, but after choosing a Raspberry Pi Zero W for the job, he ran into a couple issues. First, he had to make sure it was using the correct UART on the Pi to allow it to communicate via the required 300 baud connection. After that, there was an issue with the serial logic being reversed, which was handled by an Arduino Pro Mini inline as a sort of translator between the two gadgets.

After solving these issues, as well as a few quirks with the text output, Coward set up the Wolfram Alpha API for a Q&A interface, and made a 3D-printed case for the new electronics. He can now type in “TERMI [his question]” to receive an answer in thermal-printed format!

Jeremy S. Cook
Engineer, maker of random contraptions, love learning about tech. Write for various publications, including Hackster!
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