Complex, Beautiful Device is Limited to Text-speak and Cat Pictures (WTF, LOL)

Beautifully documented, modular, and completely open-source, this split flap display project by [JON-A-TRON] uses 3D printing, laser cutting and engraving, and parts anyone can find online to make a device that looks as sharp as it is brilliantly designed. Also, it appears to be a commentary on our modern culture since this beautifully engineered, highly complex device is limited to communicating via three-letter combos and cat pictures (or cat video, if you hold the button down!) As [JON-A-TRON] puts it, “Why use high-resolution, multi-functional devices when you can get back to your industrial revolution roots?” Video is embedded below.

The only limitation is that the device has no way of knowing the state of individual displays, so it’s unable to spell out specific messages – an operator simply holds a button to scroll through letters, and stops when the correct letter is displayed. For a similar project that has serious control hardware (but none of the cheeky commentary) check out this scratch-built alphanumeric split flap display.

[via Adafruit Blog]

27 thoughts on “Complex, Beautiful Device is Limited to Text-speak and Cat Pictures (WTF, LOL)

  1. I really like this, but what if the builder introduces a light sensor or even just sends short electrical pulses to “count” the flips would that not mean you could automate spellings etc.

    1. Essentially, yes, that would be the way to go.

      Ideally you’d add a little bit more complexity so that it can detect its starting state (and get back on track in case of a missed pulse). The simple way here is special notch/tab on one specific card which would reset the counter.

      1. Actually, how many cards are there? Can’t be more than what.. 30? 26 plus some blanks/punctuation/maine-coons?

        The way I’d go with this would be with something like five-bit optical sensing. That way you don’t have to run through all the cards when you start the device up. Two LED’s per bit, total of ten per display… I’d probably use three 8-bit shift registers, but there’s plenty of other interesting ways to hook it up. That’s also assuming that there ~30 characters per cell; obviously if there are more, or less, your part count would vary. You could also copy the 135 DX standard, and use metal pads (read: alu tape or copper tape) and sensing electrodes. Probably more fragile than the optical approach though.

      2. I’m thinking you could mechanically gate it, like those old address books with a knob or slider on for the letter…. then you could have a linear servo select the stop position and maybe flip through faster.

        1. But the Pragotron commands it!

          Pragotron being apparently the Czech manufacturer of those boards…. though according to Wikipedia that one is a Solari…. Phrases such as “Consult the Pragotron!” etc seem way cooler though.

      1. I’d bet they’re actually more readable, lower maintenance and lower power than a wall of TV screens or something more modern in appearance.

        London Waterloo station uses a similar thing which is kinda flip-dot from memory.

        1. Well of the attributes of this technology –

          Readability: compared to LCD screen that have about 70 degrees offset before the loose readability these flip screens were better but not dramatically so.

          Maintenance: was much higher than a LCD screen but it could be done on site and very quickly rather than sending a SMPSU away for a week.

          Power: difference is questionable as you need a computer to run LCD screens just as you do for flip displays but it is highly likely that LCD screens are more power efficient when information is changing and 1000’s of times less efficient during period when the information is not changing.

          So why use them then?

          Well for one reason –

          It’s purpose is to display information about flights. This information does not change much between landings and departures.

          In the case of a power outage, the benefit of LCD screens is lost immediately but in the case of flip screens the information presented remains relevant for some time during the power outage.

    1. The tech came from the very early pre-electronic digital clocks. This is why (all that time ago) mains voltages where time synchronized. These clocks run on a 60Hz 50Hz) synchronous motor and kept time fairly accurately.

  2. Anyone interested in real ones? i got plenty of them with 2 integrated hall sensors for a closed looped flap recognition. One Sensor counts the fallen Flaps and the other one counts the blank one.

    1. Alphanumeric? I’d be curious to see what you have available. Kind of amusing, since I was just looking at split flap displays the other day, and wondered where you could purchase them – eBay didn’t seem to turn up much (maybe I wasn’t searching the correct terms?).

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