Reuse Your Old Palm Pda As An Lcd Display

palm lcd display
if you’ve got an old palm device (palm, visor, clie, workpad), you can use it as an lcd output device for your pc or robotics project.  the open source software palmorb runs on palm os 2.0 or above and makes your old palm pilot emulate a Matrix Orbital LK204-25 LCD.

this is great.  i’ve got an old palm 3 collecting dust that can get some use now.  there are some code samples on the site, or you can use lcd4linux or lcdsmartie to communicate with your new lcd device.  thanks for the link ray.

78 thoughts on “Reuse Your Old Palm Pda As An Lcd Display

  1. Wow. Some people are just asshats. Patrick, you’re an asshat. Cut it out.

    Thanks, hackaday, this was a cool post. I’ve been looking for something like this but must have been using the wrong search criteria.

  2. I too am glad this was posted. This is the first time I’ve seen this. You can never have enough LCD displays and readouts, so I might just go and try to pick up a used palm pda for cheap somewhere.

    I wonder what would be the cheapest/oldest model that works… And how come I can’t seem to find a picture of a PDA using this? I mean, a real photo of a PDA, not a emulated screen shot.

    1. The touch pad contains several layers of material. The top layer is the pad that you touch. Beneath it are layers (separated by very thin insulation) containing horizontal and vertical rows of electrodes that form a grid. Beneath these layers is a circuit board to which the electrode layers are connected. The layers with electrodes are charged with a constant alternating current (AC). As the finger approaches the electrode grid, the current is interrupted and the interruption is detected by the circuit board. The initial location where the finger touches the pad is registered so that subsequent finger movement will be related to that initial point.the touch screen works on an X and Y axis. to get the X position, the controller sets pin4 to +5 volts and pin2 to ground. pin1 is left unconnected. the controller uses pin3 to read the voltage whear the top layer meets the bottom get the Y position the controller sets pin1 to +5 volts and pin3 to ground. pin2 is left unconnected the controller uses pin4 to read the voltage whear the top layer meets the bottom layer. if you would like to know more about this subject or would like help converting you’r touch screen into a touchpad mouse please contact me at

  3. Seiera, awesome :-) Good luck on getting it to work! I’ll check back here every once and a while to see if you had any success.

    Are you using Smartie to drive the LCD/Palm? I downloaded it even though I don’t have one, but it looks very impressive.
    That is, of course, if you’re running Windows.

    And brad, that sounds like a cool idea… someone should really look into that! the only thing I could see being a problem is the size being too small (or resolution), but what do I know. ;-)

  4. nifty. i’ve been wanting to do something with my old IIIxe. is there anything like this that exists for a nintendo gameboy (an original monochrome in my case)? i’ve kept both of those (along with a laptop with a dead mobo) around just in case an interesting hack came along. :o)

  5. for an awesome use for an old palm as a human interface device, check out http;// – makes a palm the display/input for an itunes-like MP3 server…

  6. great idea, i’ve had my clie sl-10 collecting dust for about a year now.. Now i will try to hook it up on a ac adapter of 3v.. and display my winamp, and incoming emails. Does anybody know if i could connect my palm to a remote homecontrol set. I mean these cheap sets you can get to turn off lights and dim halogen.. Maybe a simple serial port hack? I have no programming experience but it will be cool though if you could control your lightings with a touchscreen, and time control them.. hihi

  7. I would still like to know how old of Palm hardware people have gotten this to work on. This would be an awesome display to have. You could have it scroll messages, or do the Winamp output.

    RE: can you imagine using a palm in your car to control your carpc? No need for an expensive dashboard hack, just use a connector from a palm pilot to your pc in the trunk….

  8. @ rueben26:

    well, it works perfectly on my Palm m105. You get them for 15 bucks at ebay.. the only problem is that they don’t have an official power supply – that’s why i and old multi-volts-power-supply i had at home, switched it to 3 volts, and connected the soldered cables to the battery contacts of the m105 – works perfectly. here’s a picture of it:

    I use LCDSmartie to control the PalmOrb emulation – the screen on the jpeg is only one of 13, which i configured with several visualizations, rss feeds and system infos as temperatures etc..

    it looks awkward in the dark as well, because LCDSmartie lets you enable/disable the backlight of your device. i leave it on all the time.

    regards, jochen

  9. rueben26, the car idea is a great one. What is also cool about using it in a car, is that you could permanently leave the PDA powered on. The current draw is so low that it shouldn’t drain your car battery. This way it’ll always be ready and you won’t have to launch the software (I imagine you have to launch it and it doesn’t just start when you power the PDA up).

    Not to mention it’d be cool to have a built in organizer into your car!

  10. Finally! A picture! Awesome :-) I was thinking of getting a m105 too! Are you happy with it? I would want to use mine as a display *and* an actual PDA with maybe an ebook or game on it. Do you recommend it? I heard about the failing capacitors on them that causes you to lose your data when changing batteries… Do you like yours?

    Also: In the picture, it looks blurred due to it scrolling the text. Is it always blurred or is it just because of the photo? I want to make sure the display is good quality before I buy one.


  11. hi matrox,

    well, i _do_ recommend the m105 if you want it to use a local data display in connection with a 3V power supply. actually, two triple-a batteries last about ~12h in the pda, and there’s neither an internal accu nor an official power supply – you have to connect the wires to the battery contacts of the pda. now, if you want to carry your pda around, you’ll always have to disconnect the cables and insert batteries – too much work in my opinion. the alternative is to use batteries all the time, but you can’t recharge accus with the docking station, and the docking station does _not_ power the m105. my pc is running 24/7, that’s why i’m using this standard power supply.

    and the blurry picture is mainly because of my digicam, but the refresh rate of the pda display isn’t brilliant either.. it’s always _a bit_ blurry when text scrolls or winamp visualizations run. it’s not too extreme, you’ll put up with it i think.

    all in all, the m105 is brilliant for local use next to your pc.

    i’ve created two short videos with my digicam to give you an impression (low quality, and remember – it’s still my digicam that adds parts of the blurry pixel movement on the m105’s screen :) ):

    just take a look…



  12. ..and yes – the m105 is not very secure in maintaining your data. i think it looses everything in it’s ram, even customly installed applications, within 30 minutes without power. that sucks, and that’s why you should only use it as a little funky display next to your monitor :).



  13. Thanks for the cool videos! The night one looked cool! Yea, what I was thinking of doing was running it off AAA’s, just don’t use backlighting, and be able to take it out of the cradle if I want to bring it with me anywhere. But I realize that idealisticly that won’t work since the batteries still would only last a few days at the most, and would be a waste of money.

    …30 minutes without power before data loss? Try less then one minute! The PDA has a tiny capacitor that acts as a battery and discharges when the batteries are removed. The problem is that Palm made some kind of design flaw and the capacitor gets too much voltage and they fail. So, numerous people report that no matter how fast they swap batteries, data loss still occurs…

    I might end up getting a different model that is more friendly to being used as a standard PDA and for the LCD display hack. Perhaps a rechargable PDA would be the best since I imagine it charges while in the cradle, and would never die out.

    Thanks again for the cool vids :-)

  14. you’re welcome :)

    i found out that some PDAs, as e.g. the Palm IIIx, have space left in their FlashROM! With tools like JackFlash ( you can use it to store apps and other data in the FlashROM. The FlashROM does not lose its contents when the batteries are emtpy, so a Palm IIIx might be the right choice – you can use 786KB of the FlashROM for your own apps and data.

  15. Personally I love the winamp spectrum analysiser, the weather and email outputs I us a Palm 5 and just leave it run…Im thinkin cool mod (currently have it hooked into my media center.

  16. Wow, this is *awesome!* It’d be great to somehow mod this into the front of my case, rip out a few of those FDD slots maybe.

    Anyway, how do you get it fullscreen on the palm? Looks a little lame so small on mine, but I see everone else has it so I must be missing something.

  17. I got a M100 just to run this PalmOrb.
    The software has been updated and modified quite a bit recently. I believe he has added USB palm support to the software also (m100 doesn’t use usb so can’t test that out).

    To get it fullscreen, poke at that top thing, screen, then you can set the font. I like the “Bold, Scaled 7×24” option. Fills most of the screen and I can read the text.

    In terms of power I need help with that. My plan to use a Gameboy AC adapter (have a bunch) works most of the time, but the backlight often causes it to abruptly turn off. I dont know if its the increase use in power or what because it has been on with backlight for about 3 hours and hasnt shut off… weird..
    Anyways, in terms of power, you can use the 5volts with ground but you will probably need a bunch of resistors or a voltage regulator since palms are designed to run on 3volts or so.
    I had hoped for a circuit that would have 2 power sources, 2xAA @ 3volts and the PC powersupply at 3.3volts. So it would switch to the PC powersupply when the computer is on, then go to the batteries when the pc is off. I gave up on that idea and used a cheapo ac adapter instead.

    You can have it take some user input. It wont be like a scribble pad, but you can use the grafitti pad to input commands to your computer to say.. start winamp, next track, etc… fun stuff.

    I hate my M100 for not having flash space >_<.

  18. has anyone actually installed this into a case yet? this is what i’d be interested in. also, i dont quite understand. is any hacking/moddification of hardware involved in this, or is it just “connect palm running this software to computer and watch the little bars”?

  19. @ crummy:

    there’s no “real” fullscreen mode – but you can change the font set PalmOrb uses to emulate the LCD. Just enter PalmOrbs menu by clicking on the upper left corner of your pda screen, choose “screen”, and then choose the font you’d like to use.

  20. hi ed,

    i just soldered the cables of a H&H SN650GS power supply ( and stitched the two cable ends behind the battery contacts of the palm, fixed with some duct tape and over that the battery clip, which gives additional hold for the cable. of course the clip doesn’t fit too good, but it presses on the cable and that’s why it gives additional hold.

    the cable with the white line on it goes to the plus pole, the black one to the minus pole.

  21. I looked at using PalmOrb a while back – as a fellow mentioned above, it’s an old app, and not very robust. THe biggest fault is the LK204 emulation, which is only a 4 line by 20 character display. That’s okay for some simple graphics and a little bit of text, but not really helpful for real apps.

    What I’m working on is simply installing a Vt100 emulator on the Palm device, which hooks right up to the serial port. Most emulators have large screen diusplay mechanisms (80×24 in various arrangements), and you can dump entire displays to it. Use Vt100 control codes to clear, bold, underline, etc text on the palm.

    For my registration system I use at conventions (, we’re going to use old palms the same way as you’d use a display screen on a cash register – showing what folks are purchasing / registering / everything. All we do is squirt the text through the serial port, with the Vt100 control codes.

  22. FYI, you need the latest alpha, not 1.0 to go fullscreen. Thanks for the tip, jochen.

    There’s another version on the PalmOrb site that lets you specify width/height, dbs. However you can only use LCDC (which allows custom width/height specification.) Havn’t tried the linux ones though.

    How technical would this be to mount inside your case and hook up to one of the power connectors and a serial port? I have zero experience in this sort of thing. Is there something I could get to make this easier? I’m using a Palm Vx, by the way.

  23. jordan: no hardware hacking required, unless you decide to add some kind of permanent power source.

    I got this working on my old m125. It drains batteries like crazy because I had it in my pocket during Hurricane Charley last year, so I replaced it with a Zire 31. Everything else about the m125 is fine, it just goes through batteries really quickly.

    Someone asked about molex connectors for power. I wouldn’t risk it, molex has 12v and 5v. There are 3.3V leads on an ATX power supply if you want to tap that, that may be a little more reasonable. I wouldn’t guarentee it. While running, my palm seems to pull about 2.85V.

    specs: running LCDproc under linux 2.6, with clients lcdproc, trafficpl and the weather one.

    What other good clients have people found for this?

  24. thanks for the help. i finally got my palm running attached to an old atx power supply. if this program was any good i would do more work and make it all nice lookings, but i’ll stick to my parallel port lcd screen. it’s only 2 lines, but it’s better than this in my mind.

  25. PalmOrb is known not to work with the visor series… especially the deluxe models.

    I’ve been trying all afternoon and found a ton of other people saying the same thing in the palmorb forums.

    Palmorb is no longer supported… so who knows if this will be an option to us in the future.

    So I was so excited about this… :(

  26. I have a mac, a palm pda, and a usb cradle. Has anybody been able to get this configuration to work?

    The palmorb software runs on the pda. But I can’t get my mac to send data to it over the usb wire to the pda.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    I even tried to just do “echo ‘test’ > /dev/tty0” but I don’t know which tty to use for the usb.

  27. @ed
    How did you connect your palm to the power supply? I’m assuming you used the leads to the motherboard, but what wires? This is an EXCELLENT program and I plan on finding a way to power led’s for the backlight b/c my m100 backlight sucks.

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