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Pacific Northwest Paper Tape Punch Service - and request

Covers: Oregon and Washington

DougM

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2023
Messages
70
One of my projects last winter winter was to restore a standalone paper tape punch I had sitting in my basement for too long. I repaired a dead solenoid, learned a *lot* about how the mechanism worked (genius!) and made a quantity of improvements.

  • switched from a constantly running AC motor to a stepper so it would run only when actually punching
  • add the capability to automatically add a direction arrow to the beginning of the tape
  • ability to switch between text and binary for the punching operation
  • USB link
  • replaced (but retained) the original driver board with a microcontroller driven ULN2003 based design. It's notable that the original board had not 1 but 3 555's :)
  • add a large number of dim blinking red LEDS so it retained some period authenticity
I'm embarrassed to say that I don't have any good pictures of the machine, but below is a picture of the mechanism in mid-repair (first thing you'll notice is that at least one bit is missing)

I was going to make a little side hustle out of it but I ran into the issue of not being able to source tape. I have a couple of rolls of the original yellow stuff but they might be the only yellow tape left on the planet. And this might be one of few standalone punch machines in the US as well.

Which is why I'd like to offer here to punch paper tapes for your projects. The only catch is that the tape will be modified cash register tape rather than original.

The Request: If any of you have sources or ideas for finding or manufacturing blank paper tape (aside from the onsie stuff you can get on eBay) I would love your help. If we as a group want to commission a boutique run of rolls (which I likely can't afford individually) I would love to be involved.

So please let me know if you need tape punched. I've also attached an example of the font print.

I would dearly love to punch Colossal Cave Adventure (which I have but it comes in at 13.6k which is probably a mile of tape) if someone wants to do a Youtube video of a machine loading it and playing it.

Anything you folks want to do that involves tape please let me know.

I also designed a usb (teensy 3.2) based reader but I only made a couple of them.

PXL_20211120_204715117.jpg


PXL_20211127_003350792.jpg
 

twolazy

Veteran Member
Joined
May 22, 2011
Messages
2,239
Location
Chicago, IL
What size tape do you need? My buddy aka Mountain Man that I visit now and then is big on mini-computing , I can see if he has some to spare. Tried for years to get him to come here, but he's old (83) and just not interested into meeting new people.

Reminds me, I have to visit soon anyways, Wanted to grab his 5150 down and get it running.
 
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DougM

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2023
Messages
70
What size tape do you need? My buddy aka Mountain Man that I visit now and then is big on mini-computing , I can see if he has some to spare. Tried for years to get him to come here, but he's old (83) and just not interested into meeting new people.

Reminds me, I have to visit soon anyways, Wanted to grab his 5150 down and get it running.
It's the standard 1" tape - actually about 1 1/32"

That would be great! I'd be happy to pay for shipping and handling. If he happens to have another punch machine (working or not) I now know mostly how to fix them :)

Thank you,

DougM
 

DougM

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2023
Messages
70
I'm thinking of doing this service as a pay-what-you-want model. So if you are on limited income and need a tape punched for your project just cover shipping, I'll take care of the rest.

I can also send out text-based tapes, I did this one for a friend,

1682002620278.png

I didn't do a proper build log unfortunately, but I'll post some details here as time permits.
 

bzotto

Experienced Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2022
Messages
107
Location
San Francisco, USA
I also have a (mostly) working punch but only a partial roll of the precious real paper tape— I have also considered what it would take to figure out how to commission a small run of the stuff from a paper mfgr. I figure the TOP-> stamping is just a nice to have so as long as you found decent paper stock that was reasonably similar/sturdy, the width based slicing should be in the regular wheelhouse of paper suppliers.

Anyhow all of that is to say I’m in for a group commission on this. Don’t have a ton of bandwidth at the moment to make the calls on it but eventually may be able to help with that too.

(And ps Doug your service offer here is very generous for those who might need it, thanks for offering it.)
 

Qbertnix

Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2023
Messages
33
Location
Wiltshire, UK
Paper tape still appears to be available in the UK. This machine tool service guy lists it, so somebody must still be making it.
 

bzotto

Experienced Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2022
Messages
107
Location
San Francisco, USA
Good find! Although at that price per spool it’s hard to know whether they’re operating with limited NOS, and/or have just found a highly price insensitive market niche…
 

DougM

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2023
Messages
70
I hacked together an elaborate cutting machine to turn 3" cash register tape into 1" paper tape. It works pretty well, so there is basically zero cost in terms of burning precious original tape for your needs.

9ujPTXntSSWjbwWQEhTNaZHw1dPaqAo4gu-cr3lRrB1nGqZrMcf23IHhfmWTLRZPQAm53pWZMTUDWcHc-P6coeEx6J-8iib0y8YeGRGDyhQGop_bquoG-enY-9riK5PtzCNjIZFMtu0t2i_f_UCulGg9gvr6pf66-nVMkvokMAL57NPMS4_lS_SzXqSGfr3tJQMdj_jIjRZjiVhRrfwE920eQVMLG7dd53Blmhd8-0O6m8u5gkvvz18BjPOOVo5i6IHlXfReW4KRyDaaLHw1giJnB5oxZq3avCHHMapYq3QDZ1EycW7vwEVeDWKWQWFJmbtHedUMULLoMa_WP17cfLGSHbc_ajSHbAbwl0n5ZvMxY7VNef3AAtU1s8H5s00Jq74Ld6I8i9uAb0XFt1eZZAYTpeGSOuSYhzOrUhO1KJLf19GNtMvwl-X5O_lq9scNZxm3O8ckoVSvB1SnbdmR2Nv7tWCWzxq5Akk0qz86uWzfIEVGTsLATLYhGNGLV2kUeQT1bZC8gA-mqGXKiWrUODceyHiVCwA85dSExhUxBTHhZN26hW168VXprY-hdiKqPzhS1mXLWdQfsnlp7WtUp3SOViqQ7pczG_WQTnCaxzcZsUnZ6yoAAZHz6WqEA-dB-utVoj2tI7Q7OQK_EjGy5f3VUzo7s35hLcWfW6uTwd2Wg9fraP32i-KImBTIbuWDQjOD1qXW0Ad6i7sxOeLlPtA5G_VoQ5KvQTnf5WhbjdCM1HdJfb0ZGmUlRahqdQLq8R32A-XxfmnTJbOpJM9cPhQmb3HO1bqS_73jSk6lgwnIuaBj2CC5TdUI4Sf7yuC28rTrHl11XS2Z8gYGq5JlZOAihdPKsS4YtVD28NVtpz_xSc1lhWsKC-AbtAMFFA56MipGvBnyqV9TDLU70ddXksBd9LVEx4WjfubdqMO3PWMnIA5mhw=w872-h1163-s-no

HPjSyv8TiAuPtSIvJr2q-4CP_2_R6gU-zUk-JluWCWds87vx-18OQ1r9W_ihqxWZYwj9l1SZFxpNOw1JBwdtzNI1swK1kcZUN-Tapvr-OEGyJgMx-gAX4DGNwjd8DY1g7qj42iWAILHGLMiZkydXjdflQv09zYxnPqTX1nuhz44KRPWNUSzTd5T6yWKEBxkX3Oh5A0mX7mwDMtWsEHcd9qYGAKKlAn80nUWj6M0GIFzZ0UEomQt5bVMf4WgsTNCNo2BX15jphGVOO0iyV26kHCMr53kXcQduRoQ4GKoZFytyPYNDlrzr-UR82I7FVpAlZ64GNxNb_fgCcPVk0G--xZ5E1BAJMU-DcjgcB-dYJH7RpGZJVvut6s4NihoQ0s3HCA4WU6h_bInC8UDjENzfkCgDKb-BC8B2B24XlpzPKCOUvJli9ipjHbLoE_zA0PxAm_SvbQJDZsF0ExZ4PZVv5LtfNeWncE0Lx_l-IF8Fvt2wOp_hj8MFgIwEO8S2jPpEpnrCxcoipHTdnETS3TEjOCBBkSh11x81F3T1Famvt3EU7SGCmvECjxx70OEvyQGAu-DFjWAOgBOePjWR-cyTAZnu34o4cZVJobHXpfSgsgX6YY6utSOs5EIbor7K8dmm3A3FVWTf9UGhqB8F3vKXV5iDr5sT8YgI46ds2mPGVitrPN963gAa4ISpkr6u3LARZ_0Ps6MA61N6u09k7PJVcrNB1Jvcp9mHiPJwZyA-3-CIGB1MmYGUfsJya8p2ocG9Shn01eTsw11bcTDrj2-uFaQ-LcXJzxAuJ9F-ntRjyFaaVfVNCz5rzzhdS-XmfUGNCciIryzHgS-40GR9Lr5Gvp9OOPLOpBXEAkcA75oRzNXmG9-dHWCxtWzzY461VbQeN7Jd7chCRGmNjaZJTCNhrUh__swVVIjZ18YsJi6z_y-ohM7h4g=w872-h1163-s-no

Cash register tape reads just as well (on my readers), but it's thinner than the original; and white. Original paper tape is 4.5 mils where register tape is 3.5 mils. If we do a custom run I'd like to get just a bit thicker, say 5.5 mils. There is also the possibility of doing more exotic materials like Tyvek. But the only reason to use those materials is to make a tape that withstands continuous use, which doesn't seem like a very likely use case today :)

I can get cash register tape in blue but only by the case, and I don't want to take a chance on buying and converting a whole case of the stuff until I determine that there's some demand.

Some very kind people here have offered to send me additional rolls that they have available - thank you very much!
 

bzotto

Experienced Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2022
Messages
107
Location
San Francisco, USA
Ooh, can't see what I think are the images you posted? Maybe they didn't go through-- would love to see the cutting machine you devised. Anyway, glad you have some additional rolls for your project (if anyone else out there has another spare or two of the original spec and would take, say, $25/roll? + cost of shipping, let me know).

Anyway, happy to remain on back burner should this community ever determine to produce more of the real deal or an improvement (tyvek, thicker stock, etc)
 

DougM

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2023
Messages
70
Ooh, can't see what I think are the images you posted? Maybe they didn't go through-- would love to see the cutting machine you devised. Anyway, glad you have some additional rolls for your project (if anyone else out there has another spare or two of the original spec and would take, say, $25/roll? + cost of shipping, let me know).

Anyway, happy to remain on back burner should this community ever determine to produce more of the real deal or an improvement (tyvek, thicker stock, etc)
One more try... If it doesn't work this time maybe the forum admin's can help me out. It might be because I'm a newbie here.

PXL_20230423_144006533.jpgPXL_20230423_144125666.jpg
 

DougM

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2023
Messages
70
Thanks! I'm much happier when I'm doing electro-mechanical than when I'm doing electronics; and software is a distant third... Fourth maybe if you include pure mechanical.
 

bzotto

Experienced Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2022
Messages
107
Location
San Francisco, USA
Since you're into the typographic aspect of this tech also (I am too), thought I'd share this really fun Baudot tape derived font ("baudotpunch") that I came across. It's included as a freebie with this more substantial Trod typeface:
Most charmingly, the type specimens are included as actual disk images for Apple II and classic Mac.
1682705826057.png

(It renders the lowercase characters as above, but for caps and digits it renders one line of actual Baudot punch dots. Neat!)
 
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DougM

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2023
Messages
70
That's right, I forgot all about that - I had to create my own font :) I couldn't find anything on the web that was applicable so I printed up a whole bunch of 5x7 graph's in a word doc and then went at each letter with a sharpie until I got it looking about right. Then I ran it past my friend Kevin, who's much more of an alpha-nerd than I am, and he made a bunch of corrections.

It's interesting the above font is upside-down as compared with mine. I'm pretty sure I'm right - I used wikipedia pictures and some other references to make sure I got it right. It should be 2 bits under the feed punch and 5 bits above.
 
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1944GPW

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 26, 2011
Messages
787
Location
Brisbane, Australia
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DougM

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2023
Messages
70
1682743333459.png
1682743376075.png

Just couldn't help myself :)

It looks better when it's all caps.

Also, I TAKE BACK everything I said about the above font being upside down. Clearly the tape I showed earlier was a "pre-production (!)" tape and it was backwards, since the one I just printed has the feed holes nearest the top.
 

bzotto

Experienced Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2022
Messages
107
Location
San Francisco, USA
Cool! Mixed case (especially with descenders) is just so hard to do nicely in a small fixed grid. Some Motorola char gen chips used 7x9 characters but had a shifted mode that "dropped" the glyphs with descenders a couple lines down during the output dot scan. No such cheating on punch tape! I feel like you have one extra row of dots available if you want to use it at the top there, no?

There were 70s punched tapes that had (all-caps) title text at the head of them (I've seen examples of Pittman's Tiny BASIC like that)-- I don't know if that was just one off stuff by whoever was making the tape or whether some of the equipment (33ASR) had a way of doing it automatically?
 

DougM

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2023
Messages
70
I feel like you have one extra row of dots available if you want to use it at the top there, no?
That's a really good question - all the printable characters at the time were in the lower 7 bits (this machine was manufactured in 1975), so while the machine does have an 8th bit I don't think it was used except maybe for parity?. And I didn't code parity. So both text and binary modes only takes advantage of the lower 7 bits (since the binary is just a character in an interpreted language like BASIC). I guess I could change that, but then I'd have to create a whole new font.

but then on the other hand if you were punching actual binary on it like a boot loader it would have to use that 8th bit. Now I need to go see how binary mode actually responds when I send it >127.

There's 11 solenoids in the mechanism, the 8 data bits, a 9th that punches the feed holes, then 1 to engage feed forward and 1 to engage feed backwards. There was another coil that was originally the position sensor but I replaced it with a Hall.

The mechanism is fiendisly ingenious - I can't imagine how someone designed it in the 1970's with nothing but a drafting table.

There's also a ghost in the machine. If you leave it plugged in with the power toggle switch turned off it will flash on just for a split second about every hour or 2 and then go right back off.
 
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