Blackberry LCD reverse engineering

blackberry_lcd

[Scott] was looking to source some LCD screens for an upcoming project, and was considering buying them from SparkFun. While the Nokia panels they sell are not expensive, they aren’t necessarily the cheapest option either – especially when building in volume.

He searched around for something he could use instead, and settled on Blackberry screens. Old Blackberry models were even more durable than the current offerings, plus companies are trying to get rid of old handsets by the truckload. The only problem was that he could not find any information online that would show him how to write to the screens.

It took a bit of digging, but he eventually determined which ICs were used to drive the LCD screen. He had no luck finding screen pinout information online, so after spending a few hours testing things with his multimeter, he came up with a full listing on his own.

He wired up a connector so that he could use the screen on a breadboard, then got busy writing code to display some text on the screen. Everything came together nicely as you can see in the video below, and he has released his code in case anyone else is looking to repurpose some old Blackberry screens.

All we want to know is what sort of project all these screens are going to be used in.

22 thoughts on “Blackberry LCD reverse engineering

  1. Very nice! Going to have to keep this page bookmarked in case I find some old BlackBerry phones for cheap.

    More people need to try to reverse engineer screens from mobile phones/devices, especially the newer colorful capacitive touchscreens… With all the old, “first gen” smartphones (original iPhone/iPhone 3G, T-Mobile G1, MT3G, OG Droid and so on) starting to get outdated, they’re going to start filling up landfills fairly soon… Reusing displays from bricked phones that cannot be fixed and/or are out of warranty or just from outdated phones that are no longer usable would be great as well…

    It’d be great if we could salvage and use them in projects, I know I’d love to use the SAMOLED capacitive touchscreen from my hard bricked Samsung Captivate as well as my fully functioning G1… Sadly, I don’t have the skills nor tools necessary to do this, otherwise I’d do it in a heartbeat.

  2. Correct me if im wrong but most newer phones like the G1 use LVDS for a connector so that should be pretty easily done.

  3. I’m not sure if it’s LVDS exactly, but the biggest problem is finding out which pins are which on the connector and finding a suitable controller board to drive the display, backlight and touchscreen… Those who have tried to reverse engineer the G1’s screen have been unsuccessful so far… The same goes for Samsung’s SAMOLED screens, there is even less info on those, which is really what I’d like to use.

  4. EXCELLENT HACK! And a TRUE hack for that matter. (GOOD JOB HaD!)

    One I’ll keep in the ranks when it comes time to pull my own Blackberry apart. Mine’s a newer version, but it will most certainly help (a lot!) in parting out the darn thing later.

    Good job, Scott!

  5. Wow thanks for this info! I’ve got somewhere around 20 of these old blackberrys laying around in a box. Look like the same model. Was waiting to find a good use for them. Time to find that box now…

  6. @Caleb

    Thanks! I used the 7-bit format hinting back to the early days of ASCII, and I’m known for writing in all caps (only way my handwriting is legible). I tend to think in black-and-white, so binary seemed suitable.

  7. @Mike

    My sister runs a 501c3 non-profit. She takes donations of anything we can use or sell. We probably have somewhere around 300 of these rim blackberrys that were donated to our animal clinic. I brought some of them home to see if I could find a use for them, but they went in a closet and were forgotten about until I saw this. Most of the ones I have are the same model that this post is on. I’m going to go to our clinic tomorrow and see just how many we have and what models they all are. If anyone is interested in purchasing these (the money would be going to help spay and neuter homeless animals) please contact me at lsellens@spayhouston.org If you would like to know where the money will go check out spayhouston.org and adoptacattexas.org and yes I know the websites look horrible, I did not write them and don’t have the time right now to take that over.

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