Experiential Typewriter

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"For us these neurological numbers take on the meaning of mantras" (Psychedelic Review, 70).

The "mantra" reprinted to the left corresponds to “astonishing statistics about the nervous system and potentialities of consciousness” (70). The ingestion of psychedelic foods or drugs supposedly allows us to tap into some neural activities that are repressed during regular cognitive activity. Inability to symbolically convey subjective experiences during inebriation leads to a potential loss of qualitiative research data concerning psychedelic substances. Leary states that “We can think or speak at the rate of three words a second. That means that one – thousand-million-minus-three registrations cannot be communicated” (71). Albert Hofmann synthesized the chemical LSD-25 in 1940s Switzerland “within a systematic research program”; he ends the notes of his first self-experiment:

Supplement of 4/21  : Home by bicycle. From 18:00 to ca. 20:00 most severe crisis. (See special report)

and notes that “I was able to write the last words only with great effort” (27).

In the 1965 paper announcing the experiential typewriter Leary a device capable of recording experience during a roller coaster ride:

“Lets imagine twenty buttons which the subject will push to record his reactions. One button is for “thrill” and another is for “lights” and another is for “sick” and another is for “dizzy.” Then we train the subject for hours in the code system until he gets to that point of automatic proficiency of the touch typist who can rattle off copy without think of what she is doing…Then we strap the subject’s hands to the dials of the roller-coaster ride. He can now give us perhaps twenty to a hundred codes a second which we pick up on a polygraph (i.e., a multipen recorder attached to the sending keys) (Psychedelic Review 71).”


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Esterline Angus Chart Recorder

The experiential typewriter’s design is credited to Dr. Ogden Lindsley of the Hsvsrd Medical School and William Getzinger, electronic engineer with MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. The instrument is a direct remediation and synthesis of preexistent machinery. An internally modified Esterline Angus Operational Recorder is attached by long wires to a power console; two ten button keypads allow input.


“The usefulness of the Experiential Typewriter depends upon the meaningfulness of the experiential language to be coded…at this primitive stage of our understanding o fthe levels of consciousness it is premature to design…a linguistic system…ad hic languages should be set up for each area of consciousness to be explores, for each session” (75).

Levels of Consciousness to Be Expressed

It is clear that codes intended for use with the experiential keyboard were always temporary and that new, specific codes may be used for individual experiments. Sources suggest number of coding possiblities that may have been useful for recording the inexpressible during “accelerated-brain experience.” Some states include stuporous, emotional, symbolic, somatic, senosory, cellular, molecular and out-of-body. “Each level needed a vocabulary,” which may have been taught to a subject during initial sessions; necessary to form a (sober) control set of data (156). Sensory, cellular and moleculer vocabularies were generated from overlaid "biology slides and and film strips...enlargements of cellular activity" and tape library with a wide variety of emotionally charged sounds in multiple languages (157).

Chart Paper

Leary notes that the anticipation of a subject's loss of contact with the instrument and subsequent holding down of a key has lead to a notational system with discrete markings; "each time the key is depressed a mark is made on the polygraph, but if the key is held down no further mark is made" (72). The paper could be read by the researchers as the test was in progress, and the narrative could possibly be further explained by the subject after the test's completion.

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Keyboard Diagram

Theoretical Concepts

The obvious--it is our fingers which must commnicat when we can not speak, fingers can be automatized through typing,

POPS—the instrument, by being automatized, becoming part of individual’s unconscious, writes the experience 1.physically through movement of fingers 2. possibly cognitively because one has just trained oneself to think in a new code. The machine is recording only the signs which have been coded into it (also coded into the subject, so man and machine are equated?) The experience is predetermined by the code given? ******The ET is NOT JUST THE MACHINE; IT IS ALSO A LINGUISTIC FORMULA, A FROM, A SPECIFIC LANGUAGE, it writes itself because it necessitates the invention of a language

Formal pro-who can write/receive--the device seems democratic because the code can always be rewritten--more like a piece of paper than an english typewriter-keys have slot for new code/color slips to be put in/out--anyone could make up a code, and have an experience--not only that it can be used by only one person because the tape runs by itself--practically however, few did

Arbitrary--certain escribed features seem to be extraneousnes either 1. I can not figure out where they fit into the schemata 2. the are extra pieces so that the code could be more complex/different, so future experimetns could expand (four light in each key, but only two attached)

Comments by others

Although Psychedelics Encyclopedia (1992) suggests that a prototype for such a machine was attempted but never reached a functioning state,” the original 1966 article features data gathered from tests run: “The first session was run as a control period, without drugs. The set was to meditate in silence. The second recording was made three hours after the ingestion of 250 gamma of LSD. Both sessions were run in a very small room; the subject lay on a mattress on the floot, hands resting easily on the two keyboards of the E.T. The console and recorder were ;in an adjacent room. The room was lit by one candle; actually the subject kept his eyes closed throughout both sessions” (83). Setting and subject positioning of these experiments are similar to the type within a {SOURCESOURSEXXXXXXXX) constructed behing the kitchen wall of

In an article from 2006, Marko comments that "While insightful as to the timing of the various phases of the experience(e.g. onset, encounter, comedown), the results of these experiments only provide a real-time subjective assessment of the experience. This experimental methodology only provides a more objective understanding to the course of events during DMT inebriation."

Similar Contemporary Atempts

Kenny Goldsmith FIdget, soliliquay,

Everyday knowldege reader--art and science must co-mingle


Leary, Timothy. "The Experiential Typewriter." Psychedelic Review 7. 1965.

  • Rodriguez, Marko A. "A Methodology for Studying Various Interpretations of the

N,N-dimethyltryptamine-Induced Alternate Reality." 2006