Powered Transcriptor Item in Creus | World Anvil
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Powered Transcriptor

Phanae picked up the end of the punchreel and held it to the skylight. "Just a bunch of holes in a long piece of paper. Is this a playback card?"   "Similar but not quite." Eila tugged on a handle, pulling down the rolling metal cover of the contraption. "This isn't a floorbox, it's a printing press." The gearing was complex, but Phanae saw what looked like the Etoilean alphabet on type blocks, arranged on a row of discs where the teeth of a gear would be. "Here, let me run that through."   With a clatter, the press began to churn as it pulled the punchreel through the slot. With the mechanism exposed, Phanae watched each lettered disc spin to a position, one at a time along the row, then with a *click*, the disc pressed against a piece of paper, which shifted upwards after each press.   "This is taking quite a while to produce a single page. Why would anyone use this over a normal printing press?" The press had just started its fifth line. "A good scrivener could also probably write this more quickly."   Eila shook her head. "It's not about speed, this is an archival tool. You've seen how the archivists at the Academy tear their hair out over preserving old manuscripts and books. The ink will fade, the mice will get at the parchment." She tapped on the punchreel, which was slowly winding its way through the slot. "With these we can make copies at will relatively quickly."   "As long as what's written down is worth preserving, I suppose." Phanae looked at the exposed printout. "Definitely not this. 'Ribald Jokes and Lewd Gestures'? Why would anyone go to the trouble of making a reel of such a thing?"

Mechanics & Inner Workings

A Powered Transcriptor is outwardly similar to those musical floorboxes reading Playback Cards, with a similar looking input slot. Transcriptor punchreels, however, are much longer than the comparatively short musical cards; each row of holes in a punchreel corresponds to a single letter, so a novel-sized punchreel wound tightly might be the width of a large dinner plate.   As a reel is fed into the transcriptor, the hole positions are 'read' by pressure-sensitive switches that activate in patterns corresponding to the Etoilean letters. The printing mechanism uses a row of type discs bearing each letter of the Etoilean alphabet on its surface, and when a printreel is read, each type disc corresponding to that letter's order is rotated into place. Once an entire row is set, the type is inked and pressed against the writing surface, generating a row of text and pushing the paper to the next row. This continues until the entirety of the punchreel is read and transcribed onto the surface, with the reel being wound in reverse as it exits the Transcriptor.

Manufacturing process

Only one manufactory in the Etoile Capital City is set up to build Powered Transcriptors, and the process is painstaking - each of the rack gear linkages requires three or four days of construction, with final mating and assembly taking upwards of a full week. Once the imprint selector is complete, a further two weeks are required to mount the rollers and complete final inspections. Notably, a Powered Transcriptor takes over five times as long to assemble as even the most advanced Power-Wagons.


Powered Transcriptors are significant to the workings of the Etoilean bureaucracy, promising to convert warehouses full of old parchments and paperwork into easily copied punchreel catalogs. Prior to their invention, reproduction of old documents was a chore, as a scrivener and typesetter would have to work in tandem to read a document and transcribe it into type plates. Due to this expense, it was often cheaper to simply have researchers and archivists travel and view the document in the original.   Transcriptors significantly change this process. A scrivener can instead work with a Power Engineer to create punchreels for a work. While the crafting of a punchreel is, if anything, even more laborious than typesetting, the punchreel has the benefit of permanence (as typesetters and printers are loathe to lose their type to create a permanent engraving plate). Once one punchreel has been constructed for a document, no special work is required to create copies of the document - anyone can feed a punchreel into a Transcriptor and produce a ream copy of the document on demand.    This has allowed for document requests of the Etoilean Archive to be processed in a far faster capacity, as certain documents are requested infrequently enough to not be worth printing en-masse, but are still in demand by other Principality offices. For example, requesting a copy of a land grant proof deed from 680 would ordinarily require multiple weeks as the request made its way through the Archive backlogs. With the deployment of Transcriptors in 721, turnaround times for such a request made by Air Post could take as little as five days, with the majority of that time spent in lookup of the document in question (as opposed to the laborious scribing process).
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Raw materials & Components
Other than the required printer's type, the components of a Powered Transcriptor are standard Power Engineering parts, though in great quantity and of delicate sizing. Along with the standardized power linkage, there are thirty seven different rack gear mechanisms for each possible type imprint, as well as the pinned rollers and cams to handle the input punchreel and the output paper.
Though most of the Transcriptor requires no special tooling, the rack gear linkages for the letter selector mechanisms are small and delicate, not unlike fine clockwork, and require hand assemblage at dedicated craft stations in order to keep components in place.

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