What is Heavy Metal?
Heavy Metal is a free program that allows you to connect a Teletype machine to your computer's serial port in general, and the internet in particular. Although some later teletype machines understood ASCII, the real target of this program are the wonderfully noisy, mechanical devices based on 5-level (Baudot) codes. With Heavy Metal (and an interface device of some kind to convert your computer's RS-232 signals to the loop current), you'll be able to:
And - this can all be controlled from either your computer's keyboard, or directly from your teletype machine.
But wait...there's more!
An important feature of Heavy Metal is that is can do all of this in an automated, repeating fashion. Want a real stock ticker? How about a fresh weather report automatically fetched and printed out for you to read with your morning coffee? Heavy Metal lets you create a batch file of commands to be executed - either at scheduled times (using Linux's cron) or with Heavy Metal's own repeat feature. To further support completely automated operation, Heavy Metal also has built-in support for the X10 CR17A Firecracker RF control module. You can create a batch file that will turn on your teletype machine, download and print out info from the internet, and then shut everything down when it's finished printing things out.
What do I need to run it?
In truth, you don't actually need a teletype machine to use the program, but it would be kind of silly to do so. Besides, if you don't have a teletype machine you're missing out. To learn more, head over to the fine folks at rtty.com. If you do have a teletype machine, you'll need a way to connect it to your computer's serial port. For most of the older machines, this means a 60ma loop current to RS232 converter box. Again, see rtty.com for more info, and an absolute must is signing up for the GreenKeys mailing list.
On the computer side, you need a PC running Linux, Windows 95, Windows 98 or Windows ME. It will not work on Windows NT/2000 (but it could - let me know if you care).
There are two ways to get Heavy Metal itself. If you are on a Windows 95/98/ME you can download Heavy Metal as a simple executable file. This is the simplest route - click here for instructions.
The alternate method (which works for Linux, as well as Windows 95/98/ME), is to install a Perl environment and download the Heavy Metal Perl source file (heavymetal.pl). This is a considerably messier method, but once you get past the hurdle, you will not only be able to run Heavy Metal, but to easily modify it using your favorite text editor. The program file itself, heavymetal.pl, is just a simple text file.
How do I install Perl and Heavy Metal?
Again, to go the simple route and just download a pre-built executable for Windows 95/98/ME, click here.
The general installation process for the second method - installation of the full Perl environment - is similar for all supported platforms:
There is a significant amount of stuff to download - upwards of 8 megabytes. Note, though, that once you have the Perl environment downloaded, you won't need to repeat it to get new versions of Heavy Metal. The Heavy Metal program itself is currently a single file less than 100k bytes or so long.
If you have trouble, don't get discouraged - just email me and I'll be happy to walk you through the difficult bits.
Depending on your system, click on one of the following links to check out more detailed installation instructions:
How do I run Heavy Metal
There are three main ways to use Heavy Metal:
You should start off with method 1, and it might be best to do so at first without even hooking up your teletype machine. Once you've got the hang of Heavy Metal, attach your loop converter and fire it up. If you have a choice, it is recommended that you place your teletype keyboard and printer on the same loop. If you are using separate loops or converters for Rx and Tx, be sure to select Heavy Metal's "Local Echo" function.
Also, I've recently added the web-surfing mode using the Lynx text-mode browser as a back-end. To learn how to use this, click here.
Finally, one of the feature I'm happiest about is the fully-automated operation using X10 controllers to switch on the teletype motor/loop supply when needed and off when not needed. If you'd like to use this and need more info, email me with details about what you'd like to do and I'll help you decide how to hook things up and what commands need to go in your batch control file.
Useful Links & Resources
Problems, Enhancement Requests, etc.
I'll try to keep share the problems folks have been having here, as well as workarounds as they become available. So far:
Please email with your comments, problems and suggestions for new feature. Click here to reach me.