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.

Comments

  1. 1000100 1000001 1010110 1000101 says:

    Awesome. His page has been bookmarked.

  2. Mikee55 says:

    trying to get rid of old handsets by the truckload

    Jeez man, I’d like just 1 blackberry phone!

  3. m1ndtr1p says:

    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all the old, “first gen” smartphones (original iPhone/iPhone 3G, T-Mobile G1, MT3G, OG Droid and so on) starting to get outdated, they’re going to start filling up landfills fairly soon… Reusing displays from bricked phones that cannot be fixed and/or are out of warranty or just from outdated phones that are no longer usable would be great as well…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.

  4. zanzee says:

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

  5. 1000100 1000001 1010110 1000101 says:
  6. andrew says:

    @1000100 1000001 1010110 1000101,

    Wow, nice find.

  7. m1ndtr1p says:

    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.

  8. ??? says:

    Spec sheets are overrated. Where be my multimeter?

  9. J Harton says:

    If he’s got a diy spec sheet, and hasn’t done so already, maybe he should submit the data to ChipDB (http://www.msarnoff.org/chipdb/)?

  10. Ren says:

    Thanks for the dipmicro and chipdb links guys!

  11. supershwa says:

    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!

  12. lsellens says:

    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…

  13. medwardl says:

    nicely done

  14. BiOzZ says:

    i cant even get a display with a datasheet to work on an LPC1114 XD

  15. Mikee55 says:

    @lsellens

    Hi, how to you get to have 20 Blackberries in your possession?

    Mike :)

  16. Caleb says:

    @ DAVE aka 1000100 1000001 1010110 1000101

    I like the alias!

  17. 1000100 1000001 1010110 1000101 says:

    @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.

  18. 1000100 1000001 1010110 1000101 says:

    @J Harton

    Yes, thanks for the ChipDB tip.

  19. Scott says:

    @Mikee55

    Ebay. :)

    I bought about 50 two days ago.

  20. lsellens says:

    @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.

  21. Athlor says:

    Gleb Erty posted info on a similar project he was working on in August 2009 on the Yahoo Group BB386dev. It might have helped him out if he’d have found it but I just had to let you know anyway. I always thought the display was sharper than many others and large for it’s 160×160 resolution.

    http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/BB386dev/message/46

  22. Grasslandx says:

    Great job! I’m recently considering Porting Linux to BlackBerry 7100,would it be possible? Seems nobody did this before.

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