Hacking A Digital Picture Keychain


The Coby DP-151sx Digital picture frame keychain seems to be ripe for hacking. At roughly $9, you get a screen, and Li-Ion battery. That’s not bad considering a similar screen alone would cost $20 elsewhere even though it runs on a slower serial connection.  While they’ve only put a 3 color pattern on it so far, more can’t be far behind. If you don’t feel like actually tearing it apart, there are some projects that have managed to customize what it displays via the USB connection.

28 thoughts on “Hacking A Digital Picture Keychain

  1. “While they’ve only put a 3 color pattern on it so far…” seems like the guy just picked that pattern to show us. Fun project, I have seen those lcd guys at the store and thought about hacking them too but never had, it would be awesome if we could get the NAND to do something…

  2. Sprite actually figured that out some time ago. With the software he wrote you can actually display pretty much everything on those devices. Pick them up on ebay for cheap, in germany we’re able to get them for 6€ from Hong Kong!

  3. Nice hack but is there any thing on hacking larger digital photo frames?

    I have 2 broken 7″ frames that I cant throw away, but I cant find anything to do with them.

    Any ideas guys?

  4. Add me to the people who would like to see a big photo frame hacked. There was a post on linuxdevices about a hacker friendly AGFA frame, but I’ve never seen it for sale. I’d buy a chumby but I don’t want a pillowly thing. Basically, I want George Jetson’s alarm clock. Something to put on my nightstand to show me an RSS feed of the weather, the time, and a webcam photo of the outside of the house. The little ARM’s inside these frames have got to be able to handle that. Streaming audio would be a plus.

  5. Perfect timing. I got one of those Coby ones for free using Pepsi points and it just arrived yesterday. It’s still sealed in its package and I didn’t know what I was going to do with it…

  6. What would be really cool is if somebody smarter than me figured how to hack a larger digital frame into a dirt-cheap ebook reader… plaintext files on an SD-card rendered legibly on the screen, able to index down a page at a time, and remember where you’re up to when you turn it off.

    Analogue hacks I can do, digital is too complicated for tired old farts like me. :-)


  7. Amazon has two versions. The black one is the $9.99 one. There are some pretty cool things you could do with this. I decided not to bother with the 65C02 processor core because it doesn’t have good debugging support (and you can brick it if you’re not careful).

    Imagine a wristwatch. Put in an accelerometer and you could get one of those rolling ball games (think Chumball for the Chumby). Oh the possibilities!

  8. dj_q, could you tear apart those picture frames and post what’s inside them? I’ve been meaning to pick up one, open it apart to see what’s inside, then put it back and return it for refund. But I’m low on cash and don’t want to risk not being able to return it and spend $100 on a frame I don’t need.

    I haven’t been able to find a tear down for one of these things. Wish I knew what they use for the LCD controller (and wifi).

  9. Hi Omikun

    Neither of the frames I have support wifi, just USB and SD.

    I have one here. The main chip is

    * MT1389DE

    My digi cam got nicked in a recent burglary, so sorry no pics :-(

  10. Has any one looked at tearing the screens out of Photo printers. Liek the large size ones that have media readers, but work as regular printers too? I keep seeing dead ones of those all around. Plus the medai reader might be handy.

  11. I was partly successful in trying out the hack on a Vu-ME Hannah Montana photo frame (photocube). I was able to verify that it was a ST2205U chip and send strings to the lcd.
    Added a walk through of what I did. It may help someone who wants to get started:

    I however have bricked my cube. It won’t even turn on now. Will update if I’m successful. Thanks to Sprite for his script though.

  12. FYI: Radio Shack has a neat little 3.5″ digital picture frame on sale right now for $30. (catalog # 16-663)

    It uses this ASIC:


    And this 320×240 TFT LCD:


    Hopefully, the caps-to-lower feature of this website won’t trash the URLs.

    Anyway, I saw it on sale for $30 and figured the screen was probably worth that alone.


  13. I wish someone would turn or hack a cheap $20 or $30 5 inch or 4 inch lcd digital photo frame into a ebook reader for text and rtf files.

    Ideally it should have 4gb storage from a sdd card with a long battery life or the option to turn the backlight off.

    A lcd displays don’t consume much power this could extend the battery life.

    Ebook readers like the amazon kindle and sony ereader cost as much as a laptop at present.what a rip off.I mean $250 to $400 for a ebookreader.
    I don’t want to pay that much on principle.

    Even a mini netbook is unsuitable for ebook reading due to the short battery life.
    A low power low cost photoframe would be ideal.

    I am surprised that no one has done this hack.The focus seems to be turning photo frame into video displays for which they are not really designed due to their poor frame rate.

    They would are more suited to be ebook readers.

    Anyone up for this challenge?

  14. Found at GoodWill a Disney Pix Frame. It’s a 7″ Picture Frame using the SQ812B-Q and also uses an ISSI Chip, IS42S164008-7TL used in a Azurewave AW-GR520 Wireless Router.
    I found one note that suggest while it is connect via USB, holding down the “Enter” key for 10 seconds will bring up a firmware menu. My device has a Mode Key, so will see. I am hoping I can use some of the other research provided here to gain further control or flash the firmware to something more useful. Anyone played with one of these models?

  15. IS42S164008-7TL issi chip and SQ812B-Q ROM.
    I tried sprite mod for windows but no luck. I’m inspired to do something with these lcds but don’t know how, off to keep searching youtube.
    I have an old computer with video card cpu , evrything and I know something can be used with the LCD because the CPU that came with the photo Frame sucks. Pls help us! Ty for yhour time.

  16. Found one at a charity sale: alas the battery is probably dead but some of the newer ones use a chip similar to BIOS 8 pin used on laptops and routers.
    If you’ve got the technical skills its possible to make a “Predator” style cloaking helmet with them, with single camera and processor selecting which background to display.
    Works best with 128Mbit (ie 24Q128) as more space to work with.

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