Making a Diode Matrix ROM

Here is a nice project that allows youngsters (but also adults!) to actually see the data stored in a Read Only Memory (ROM). The memory shown in the picture above is made of diodes. [Scott] made it as a part of his Barcamp Fall 2013 presentation about visualizing ROMs. He starts his write-up by stating the obvious: this memory is not practical. Nonetheless, it still was a fun exercise to do. [Scott] then greatly described all the different kinds of read only memories that you can find out there, with a few words explaining how they work. In his diode ROM, bits are ‘programmed’ by adding (or not) a diode between a given data line (anode) and an address line (cathode). When pulling low a given address line, the corresponding data line will only be pulled low if a diode is present. [Scott] finally checked his circuit by using a very old device programmer which could only be run in DOS.

Monitor GitHub Activity with an RGB LED Matrix


Ever wonder who is forking your code? [Jack] did, so he built a real time GitHub activity display for his company’s repositories. The display is based a Wyolum The Intelligent Matrix (TiM) board. The TiM is an 8 x 16 matrix of the ubiquitous WS2811/Smart Pixel/NeoPixel RGB LEDs with built-in controller. We’re seeing more and more of these serial LEDs as they drop in price. Solder jumpers allow the TiM to be used as 8 parallel rows of LEDs (for higher refresh rates), or connected into one long serial chain.

[Jack] wasn’t worried about speed, so he configured his board into a single serial string of LEDs. An Arduino drives the entire matrix with a single pin. Rather than reinvent the wheel, [Jack] used Adafruit’s NeoMatrix library to drive his display. Since the TiM uses the same LEDs as the Adafruit NeoPixel Matrix, the library will work. Chalk up another victory for open source hardware and software!

An Electric Imp retrieves Github data via WiFi and passes it on to the Arduino. This is a good use of a microcontroller such as the AVR on the Arduino. [Jack’s] display has a scrolling username. Every step in the scroll animation requires all the pixel data be clocked out to the TiM board. The Arduino can handle this while the IMP takes care of higher level duties.

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Fun with LED matrix and mouse


[Brad] just acquired a 32×32 RGB LED matrix and he jumped right into the deep end with his first project. To try out his skills on the device he used an Arduino to drive a slew of pixels with bouncing-ball physics.

The demo starts off with a hail storm of multi-colored falling pixels. In the center of the storm is the cursor, which he controls with a PS2 mouse. That happens to be a ball mouse which makes sense as we don’t remember having seen any optical mice as of late that weren’t USB. The PS2 protocol is easy to read using a microcontroller; more about that in [Brad's] project write up.

By holding down the left mouse button he can draw persistent pixels on the screen. The falling balls then interact by bouncing off of the obstacles. The image above shows a frame on three sides of the screen which has trapped the pixels near the bottom. He can also erase pixels, which has the effect of draining the trapped balls like a hole in a bucket of water. Neat!

Bouncing ball physics are fun to experiment with. Here’s one being driven by an analog computer.

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Visualize Twitter with an LED matrix


What’s your favorite color? Don’t tell us, Tweet it to [Sebastian's] favorite color Twitter display and you’ll be contributing to the artwork hanging on his wall.

This answers a very important question, what do you do with your projects after they’re completed? For us the best part is the planning and building. Once it’s done the thrill is pretty much gone for us. We haven’t even switched on our Ping Pong clock in over a year. But [Sebastian] recently dusted his 10×10 LED matrix for this project.

Tweets are parsed by a Python project he wrote to try out the Twitter API. It looks for a set list of colors . He asserts that people aren’t that creative when you solicit their favorite color but to prove him wrong we’re going to say our favorite is Amaranth. After it finds the color it pushes it to the next pixel in the spiraling pattern shown above. But wait, there’s more! To give the pixels a but if extra meaning he uses the total length of the tweet to set intensity.

If you need a Titter enabled hack that displays a bit more specific data you’ll want something that can actually display what was Tweeted.

Prototyping a modular LED matrix


[Will] was toying with the idea of creating a scrolling LED marquee to display messages as his wedding in May. But you’ve got to crawl before you can walk so he decided to see what he could do with the MAX7219 LED driver chips. They do come in a DIP package, but the 24-pin 0.1″ pitch chip will end up being larger than the 8×8 LED modules he wanted to use. So he opted to go with a surface mount part and spun a PCB which makes the LEDs modular.

These drivers are great when you’re dealing with a lot of LEDs (like the motorcycle helmet of many blinking colors). Since they use SPI for communications it’s possible to chain the chips with a minimum of connections. [Will] designed his board to have a male header on one side and a female socket on the other. Not only does it make aligning and connecting each block simple, but it allows you to change your mind at any time about  which microcontroller to use to command them. For his first set of tests he plugged the male header into a breadboard and drove it with an Arduino. We hope to hear back from him with an update when gets the final device assembled in time for the big day.

Messenger bag LED matrix keeps bikers safe at night


Get a little more exposure than one under-saddle bike light can provide by building your own LED enabled messenger bag. It looks like the bag itself was fabricated from scratch by [Andrew Maxwell-Parish] rather than altering an existing bag. He had a few goals for the project, the most interesting of which was to make the electronics removable. His reasoning for this is so he can get the bag past security at the airport.

The design is quite simple, there’s a large flap which is attached at the top of the bag and has a couple of clips at the bottom to keep ti closed. On the inside of the flap he sewed a snap system which holds one piece of material on which all of the electronics are attached. The Lilypad system is used (it looks like the original hardware and not the FLORA upgrade). The main unit is sewn to one side, while the Charlieplex LED matrix was attached in a grid centered on the flap. The lights shine through the orange fabric, keeping them fairly safe from the weather and giving them a reddish hue.

If you’re looking for a few more features check out this GPS enabled messenger bag.

8×8 LED matrix pendant sealed in a block of epoxy


This is the back side of [Dmitry Grinberg's] 8×8 LED matrix pendant. He had seen the other projects that used a 5×7 grid but wasn’t really satisfied with the figures that can be drawn in that confined area when each pixel has only the option of being on or off. His offering increases the drawing area and includes the ability to display each pixel at several different levels.

He’s using an ATmega328 microcontroller soldered directly to the pins on the back of the LED module. He mapped out the IO in his firmware to make the soldering as easy as possible. To protect the hardware he fashioned a mold around the edges of the LED package using duct tape. The tape held epoxy in place as it hardened, encasing the microcontroller and holding the power wires and ICSP header tightly.

After the break you can see about six seconds of the device in action. The four levels of brightness for each pixel really do make quite a difference!

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