Vector Display Output on an Oscilliscope


What can we say, we’re a sucker for projects featuring our logo. That being said, this one is seriously awesome. [CNLohr] has figured out how to create a vector display output on an oscilloscope… from a VGA port.

He was inspired by a game called Trace Vector, which is done in the same style as some of the old classics like Asteroids. This got [Charles] thinking, and he decided to see what it would take to make his own vector capable display. An oscilloscope is perfect for this, as it already works by controlling the position of the beam (like a vector), as opposed to standard LCDs and CRTs that use rasterizing (horizontal scanning). This means to get the oscilloscope to display a graphic, all you need to do is to vary the voltages going into the X and Y channels — well, at a high speed!

But where are you going to find such a high speed digital to analog converter? Oh yeah, your computer’s VGA port! For a few dollars [Charles] threw together a VGA adapter with a few resistors using just the red and blue outputs (source code). A bit of programming later, and he’s created his own vector display!

Stick around to see our lovely skull and cross-wrenches rotate on his oscilloscope! Oh, and for a more in depth explanation and more impressive vector video demonstration.

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An introduction to vector displays


Unlike the CRTs found in big old televisions, vector displays are a bit of a historical oddity. Instead of sweeping an electron beam across the screen from left to right and top to bottom, a vector display draws lines between two points on a screen. Once used in arcade games such as AsteroidsTempest, and old FAA displays, vector monitors have fallen out of favor due to either the complexity or difficulty in acquiring the needed CRT. The folks over at NYC Resistor put up a great tutorial for getting a vector display up and running, and even managed to put a clock on an oscilloscope.

The key component of getting a vector display to work is the digital to analog converter. This DAC takes voltages from eight pins on a Teensy 2.0 dev board and converts them to a voltage anywhere in between 0 and 5 Volts. After connecting the output of this DAC to an input on an oscilloscope, the microcontroller can draw a line between any two points on an axis.

In the video after the break, you can see two of these DACs connected to an oscilloscope displaying a clock. It’s a very cool piece of work, and something that finally gives a purpose to the ancient CRT oscilloscope you might have lying around.

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Displaying tweets with a laser pointer and speakers


This year at Toorcamp, [Rich] will be showing off his laser-based vector display, capable of projecting tweets using only a laser pointer, a pair of mirrors, speakers, and an Arduino. Steady hand and curses from lack of an optical bench not included.


[Rich]‘s Instructable goes over the finer points of the build; a Python script runs on his computer fetching all recent tweets with a certain hashtag. These tweets are sent over to a ‘duino where a bit of code translates the text into a scrolling vector display. The code for the project is based on one of [Rich]‘s previous builds to draw shapes with the same speaker/laser setup.

In theory, using a pair of speakers to draw text on a wall isn’t much different from drawing pictures on an oscilloscope. Of course, [Rich] always has the option of turning his LaserTweet into an oscilloscope when Toorcamp is over.

Relevant videos after the break.

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[Dino]‘s one-year extravaganza is a laser oscillograph

Readers of Hackaday may have noticed the weekly posts featuring whatever [Dino Segovis] of Hack A Week has cooked up in the last seven days. For [Dino]‘s one-year anniversary, he’s pulled out all the stops and put together one of his coolest hacks to date. It’s a laser oscillograph that projects waveforms on a screen just like an oscilloscope. What’s more, the entire contraption is built out of a dead hard drive and a few motors and mirrors [Dino] had lying around.

The build uses an old hard drive to draw the vertical component of the waveform. Because hard drives usually use a voice coil to move the heads around the platter, it’s very easy to connect a hard drive directly to the headphone output of [Dino]‘s laptop. Playing a sine wave on his computer makes the drive heads move up and down, but [Dino] still another dimension. For that, he used a rotating mirror that reflects the wave onto a paper screen.

[Dino]‘s finished build isn’t that much different from an oscilloscope or projection TV. It’s possible for [Dino] to improve upon his build and make a genuine vector display with the addition of additional electronics and optics, but we’re not expecting that until at least the two-year anniversary.

Check out [Dino]‘s build video after the break.

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