The Worst E-Reader Ever


Over on the Projects site, [Jaromir] has created a tiny device with an OLED display, three buttons, and a USB port for storing text files, be it for saving a shopping list, a cheat sheet, or the most unusable e-reader ever made.

The front of the device is simply a 96×32 pixel OLED and three buttons for ‘up’, ‘down’, and ‘open/close’. The reverse side is where the magic happens with a PIC24 microcontroller that sets up a file system on the chip, allowing [Jaromir] to write 64kB of data on what is actually a Flash drive with a pitiful capacity. Text files are viewable on the OLED, with the video below showing the front page of Wikipedia being displayed in a glorious 16×4 text mode.

It’s not a very useful device by any means, but for some reason it’s garnered a lot of skulls and followers over on Hackaday Projects. In response to that, [Jaromir] is working on version two with a new PCB and a design for a 3D printed case. Not bad for what [Jaromir] himself describes as worse than just about any phone or tablet.


  1. Vis1-0N says:

    MCU – Check
    OLED – Check
    USB – Check
    FAT FileSystem – Check
    LiIon Battery + Charger – Check
    DIY PCB Design, SMD design – Check
    No Ardiuno – Check

    Maybe not very useful but you could base a complete course or book using the design of this device to teach various aspects of gadgetry. Many have been there, done that, if not – very interesting for a novice to follow.

  2. JRDM says:

    I don’t know what I’d do with that, but it’s a good proof of concept and proof of skills.

  3. qwerty says:

    Agree completely with the above comments, this is a project and not a product, therefore the journey is the reward; intersting stuff can be learned just by studying it.

  4. jaromirs says:

    Thanks for selecting my project here and nice writeup.

    Just minor correction – the files are actually storerd on I2C EEPROM (not FLASH), sharing the I2C bus with display. This EEPROM is accessible as normal USB mass storage, ready to be formatted as FAT drive, so copying files from PC is simple.

    • justice099 says:

      Neat project. Was there a particular reason for choosing the small display? On eBay, at least, those small OLEDs are not really much cheaper than a large one.

      I actually had a little cheap chinese MP3 player/Memo taker than had an ereader just like this in it.

  5. Eric says:

    E-Reader. When I hear (or read) that word, I think of the e-Reader for GBA.

  6. Erkki Seppälä says:

    With some work it could be a decent speed reader; one of those things that flash words in sequence. Though an encoder knob would be nice addition for that use.

  7. XkoX says:

    This may be good with Spritz applicatation

  8. Bogdan says:

    I totally like it. It could be a great candidate for this kind of speed reading:

    It would be super great if you could fit a joystick or some sort of pressure sensitive button that could control the speed. Alternatively an accelerometer could control the speed by tilting. or just don’t control it…

  9. fartface says:

    I wish we had small and affordable epaper displays, that wold be a perfect screen for this project.

  10. Smorges Borges says:

    Can it run GNU emacs?

  11. Bertrand says:

    I don’t get it. I read very positive articles on hackaday about crappy projects almost every day. That project is definitely more useful that some crap that has been posted lately and I don’t understand why it deserves so many negative adjectives in the article.

  12. yetihehe says:

    THE worst E-Reader? It sounds like a challenge :D. Probably device with one diode which sends morse-code would be even worse. Or maybe device which sends data in binary, that way you would need a reader to read your reader!

    • Freddy says:

      Make this diode an IR one and you won XD

    • Greenaum says:

      Already been done. Someone on the web, or maybe Usenet, long time ago. Made a text editor with a button and an LED, for taking notes in Morse. Controlled by an 8-pin something, probably was a PIC. Actually a dead good idea, really. If you can learn Morse you’ve got just about the simplest interface short of embedding a breadboard on your cerebral cortex.

  13. Seriously? I like the Shopping-List idea. You could simply put that in a USB-Stick like case. Some Bluetooth functionaltiy would be great. So you don’t need to carry your phone all the time while checking your shopping list. Or pen&paper, cause it’s really a tiny device.

  14. cid says:

    Man, i have been dreaming to transform one of those cheap usb-mp3 players into this, but with a spritz speed read algorithm. Thanks and please keep developing it!

    • If you would manage to get one of those SanDisk Sansa Clip (used, so you can get them quite cheap), you could flash Rockbox, a custom firmware. It has a Text-Reader, and I guess, you can even write your own Software. Just as an idea. ;)

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