Writing a Message in Hypnotizing Style


If you’ve ever encountered a rapidly spinning split-flap displays at an airport terminal, it’s hard not to stop and marvel at them in action for a few extra seconds. Because of this same fascination, [M1k3y] began restoring an old one-hundred and twenty character sign, which he outlines the process of on his blog.

Finding documentation on this old relic turned out to be an impossibility; the producers of the model themselves didn’t even keep it off-hand any longer. In spite of that, [M1k3y] was able to determine the function of the small amount of circuitry driving the sign through process of elimination by studying the components. After nearly a year of poking at it, he happened across a video by the Trollhöhle Compute Club, demonstrating the successful use of the same display model. Luckily, they were kind enough to share their working source code. By reverse engineering the serial protocol in their example, he was able to write his own software to get the sign moving at last.

Once up and running, [M1k3y] learned that only eighty of the sign’s characters were still operable, but that is plenty to make a mesmerizing statement! Here is a video of the cycling letters in action:

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Split Flap Display: If You Can’t Find It, Built It


It’s pretty hard to deny that split-flap displays are incredibly awesome. This one has been a long time coming, and it’s not a refab or surplus build. [Tom] fabricated these beautiful alpha-numeric split flaps from scratch.

Having recently seen an alarm-clock split flap hack just a week or so ago we found ourselves wondering where in the world people manage to find this type of awesome mechanical hardware. If you can’t get it out of grampa’s attic, the next best thing is to build it from the ground up.

This was not a build to be taken lightly. [Tom] started years ago, and part way into the project we looked at some of the control hardware for the installation. Make sure that you dig deep into his blog posts. It’s the only way you’ll put together the whole picture of how he ended up with each belt and stepper motor driven character module.

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Driving an 8-digit split flap display

[Markus] got his hands on a split-flap display and built a controller for it. These sometimes can be found on really old alarm clocks, but [Markus] was a lucky-duck and managed to acquire this large 8-digit display which previously made its home in a railroad station. They work like a Rolodex, mounting flaps around a cylinder for a full alpha-numeric font set.

A PIC 12F683 was selected to control the display, using optoisolation to separate the 42V display motors from the driver circuit. From the video after the break we think he did a wonderful job of getting this working. It only takes six I/O pins to control and the sound and look of the digits scrolling leaves us quite jealous.

So what’s he got in store for it? The first thing he did was use it to count down to the New Year.

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