Upgrading A Fluke Multimeter With A Masterful Addition


The old Fluke 8050a multimeter from the 80s is an awesome piece of lab equipment. It’s built like a tank, and thanks to the newer more portable models, this old meter is available for a pittance on eBay. [Ken] picked up a few of these meters and decided to give one of them a little upgrade – a 2.2″ 320×240 LCD display that is a vast improvement on the old stock seven-segment numerical display.

Inside the Fluke 8050a is a 40-pin DIP processor that handles all the computations inside the unit. [Ken]’s solution to tap into this processor was to take a 40-pin PIC microcontroller, bend some of the pins backwards, and use the remaining pins to drive the new LCD display. It’s actually somewhat brilliant in its simplicity and looks really cool to boot.

The rest of the circuitry consists of a level converter and a few wires going directly to the LCD display. [Ken] already has another Fluke 8050a on the bench waiting for a facelift and some plans for a few improvements that include a bar graph, histogram, and possibly even a touch display.

24 thoughts on “Upgrading A Fluke Multimeter With A Masterful Addition

    1. [sigh] I for one is happy that conservatives-purists-traditionalists haven’t won the day over the years. In the event they had I wouldn’t be reading or commenting to Hackaday posts. More importantly I wouldn’t be seeing the surgeon next week who will be removing these 2 wisdom teeth that have been making me cranky.

      1. Nope, that’s only the LCD in the Fluke 8020A. This is a Fluke 8050A so the screen will last longer than you.

        The reason? Simple: Fluke refused to use any Japanese parts in their equipment early days. The result was rubbish LCDs made in the USA that are guaranteed to fail.

        The 8050A/8060A meters were the first to use Japanese screens, made by Sharp. They’ve been going for 35 years and simply aren’t failing.

    2. Option A: Hack old meter to make a cool project and make it better.
      Option B: Throw out old meter.

      Not everyone is a collector, the world thanks the hackers/modders out there who are willing to take the time to make cool projects with old stuff.

  1. Neat hack. The new display + piggybacked CPU means he can do all the fancy stuff from the improvements list like logging to SD, a graph display or network controlled.

    The casing could do with some Retr0bright though. It looks like the two meters have their casing swapped over though. The top one has a very yellow bezel with a pale case and the bottom one has a pale bezel and a very yellow case.

  2. That seriously looks good. Do you have any issues on the with screen refresh rate? It’s often useful to be able to see quickly changing numbers when adjusting sensitive potentiometers. (one of the reasons I’m kinda partial to VFDs.)

    1. Seems the above picture has caught the display mid-refresh from a ‘2’ to a ‘3’. Is that a sign of the refresh rate being low or is it more likely a camera capture thing?

  3. Pretty font! – I agree that this is a bit crazy to do if you have a working instrument, but if the display is going bad, i see no problem doing this. The implementation of the “mod” is spot on – I love the piggybacking on the original processor. Bravo!

  4. With a touch screen the new display peripheral could be configured to do all kinds of things like keeping the previous n readings visible to make it much easier to track down a fault in several readings which should be identical or nearly so. Another possibility would be tracking test points in numerical order. Test 1 through n and it rolls over to a new list after the last point. Add a footswitch input for assured switching to the next reading so a jiggly touch or scratching through corrosion wouldn’t read as multiple tests.

  5. Awesome job I’d like to have the parts list, or straight out buy the kit. This meter was my go to meter. The variable db ohm setting was great for setti my audio levels.

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