Reverse engineering a plasma dot matrix display

A while back, [DragonMinded] picked up a bunch of old arcade and pinball parts from a guy on Craigslist. These parts sat around for a while until a really neat plasma dot matrix display was found in the corner of a box in his garage. Doing the only reasonable thing, [DragonMinded] figured out how to interface this ancient display with a microcontroller.

After extensive Internet research on his display, [DragonMinded] could only find a one page datasheet for his APD-128G064A-1 display. Luckily, this datasheet had voltage requirements, and since the display only had six input pins he could probe the circuit to see what goes where.

After generating a crude schematic, [DragonMinded] prototyped a driver circuit with an Arduino. When the function of each pin was discovered, the Arduino libraries were discarded and replaced with raw register access.

It was a fair amount of work, but [DragonMinded] eventually got to the point where he could draw anything he wanted on the screen. Next on the to-do list is turning it into a terminal or Twitter machine, as with all good display hacks.


  1. Mark says:

    That is a cool lizard!

    • DragonMinded says:

      Sorry to those who showed up earlier today and were greeted with hotlink images. Google plays fast and loose with redirecting blogs to local country TLDs which broke my whitelisting. Now that I’m aware, I’ve fixed the problem. :)

      • EmuMoogly says:

        ” wish i had irc logs
        drgn starts bitching on irc about how he cant figure some shit out about the display
        so i ask for pics and some info, he ignores me
        next day, he bitches again about not knowing something else so i go “maybe you should tell some info so i can keep you from blowing something up”
        btw these screens run on 20 watt 150vdc
        so he tells me to fuck off
        the best part is that once he posts his article, within 30 seconds i have a PDF of the exact protocol from the manufacturer”

  2. Atomhax says:

    Let me be the first to say that this is “teh tits”. I want/need one!

  3. Sly0 says:

    This looks total awesome!

  4. opcode says:

    I guy from the build your own pinball machine community recently started making custom boards to talk to old/new pinball DMDs, see here:

  5. Technics says:

    Cool project. I’ve been working on getting a similar one going as a clock hooked up to an MSP430.

  6. noouch says:

    It would be a shame to turn this in to something boring and static like a twitter machine or a terminal. How about putting something beefier behind it (raspberry pi?) and running some cool Processing sketches off of it?

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