Parts: 4×4 RGB button pad controller SPI

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We covered SparkFun’s new RGB button pad controller a few weeks ago. This is a full-color clone of the monome interface; a 4×4 grid of buttons with tri-color LEDs underneath. Each LED has 24bits of color control, for more than 16million color combinations. Up to 10 panels can be chained together to create huge button grids, like SparkFun’s Tetris table. We previously used a smaller version in our RGB combination lock.

We asked SparkFun to send us the SPI version of the button controller to test. This is a new product developed in-house at SparkFun, with open source hardware and software. Read about our experience interfacing this board below.

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A history of SparkFun prototypes

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If you haven’t checked out SparkFun Electronics’ prototype collection yet, you’re missing out. They unearthed many of their old prototypes and published them to show what kind of mistakes could be made. You’ll see plenty of errors and get hints on what to look for while developing your own hardware. This pairs well with their Design for Manufacture post. Along with the pile of broken board iterations, they also walk through how the company developed. Finally, they specifically cover the individual iterations of the BlueSMiRF.

One of the interesting modules in the gallery that never saw full release was the SparkFun Toys line pictured above. The individual units used the standoffs as the power and data bus. The four posts were arranged so they could only be connected in one orientation: power, ground, TX, and RX. It’s an interesting idea that seems like it might be worth exploring further. SparkFun says that it worked fine, but didn’t feel they had the resources to market it to the intended audience.