VGA Monitor Becomes Drawing Toy

We hate to break it to [Rob Cai], but he’s built a VGA drawing toy, not an Etch-a-Sketch. How do we know? Simple, Etch-a-Sketch is a registered trademark. Regardless, his project shows how an Arduino can drive a VGA monitor using the VGAx library. Sure, you can only do four colors with a 120×60 resolution, but on the other hand, it requires almost no hardware other than the Arduino (you do need four resistors).

The hardware includes two pots and with the right firmware, it can also play pong, if you don’t want to give bent your artistic side. You can see videos of both the art toy and the pong game, below.

Because the device started as a pong game, [Rob’s] version has two boxes, each with a pot and a button. Of course, if you were really building it just for the drawing toy, you’d probably put it all in a box. Maybe even a red box. If we were building it, we’d be tempted to put a tilt sensor or an accelerometer in the box so you could shake it to erase the picture. Just saying.

If you want 640×480 resolution from an Arduino, it can be done, but it takes more hardware. If you were trying to get a kid interested in Arduino, you could do worse than start with two projects with video that are fun, use a handful of easy-to-source parts, and shares hardware. Then again, if you are in the “go big or go home” camp, we’d redirect to this pong game, instead.

9 thoughts on “VGA Monitor Becomes Drawing Toy

  1. Control the pot inputs with another arduino. could this be a viable gpu for a avr based computer? Something similiar to veronica or victoria or what ever her computer is called

  2. So this is mostly based on the hard work and research of Sandro Maffiodo (aka Smaffer), author of the VGAX library released in 2014 which precisely came with this neat “just 4 resistors and a VGA connector” hardware implementation (for Arduino Uno) described in the blog entry :

    He even provided a comprehensive tutorial on the github project page with nice pictures and all, and due Credits first and foremost ! you know, crediting actual people ! (the “drawing tool” author briefly did that too on its Instructables page) but I can’t find HaD mentionning this great library before, and now it seems you get more credit here just with a 50 lines arduino sketch (cool indeed) that paints 3 pixels with some knobs than with a big effort to bring to the community a well documented tool that makes possible for everyone to use VGA with arduino in such a simple way…

    1. What if there was no Arduino to start with? Maybe we should mention its creator and the webpage every time an Arduino project appears on HaD. Wait, maybe we should start thanking Boole. Or Edison. Or maybe even further back… I’m sure you can follow the chain at least until you reach Plato.

      Ok, seriously now. Great VGA library (never used it, but looks great on github), but it seems clear that the main part here was not the library, it was the code using it and the idea behind it.

      1. Sorry, but I totally disagree : unlike this VGA library’s author, every people you’re mentionning are also famous for getting all the credit they deserved :) And on the contrary, since HackaDay praises minimalism and cool hacks, it seams clear to me that the main part here objectily is this library, as there probably wouldn’t be such a blog entry if the same thing was made with a Raspberry Pi 3.

        Now imagine yourself not only setting up a cool hack (“VGA with an arduino with only 4 resistors” is usually enough to make the frontpage here) but a whole reusable library, spending weeks of your spare time to test it and document it thoroughly so it is really easy for people to use it and make their own Arduino project with VGA on the (ultra) cheap (that’s what I call sharing, not another “my 1-weekend project”).
        Then imagine your feelings reading this article with the title “VGA monitor becomes…” and seeing your work barely mentionned in comparison with the 50 lines “etch-a-sketcher”.

        I’m not related to all this in any way, my point is not whining, and Al is free to write what he wants. It’s just that I think that, at least, it would have been a good thing to talk more extensively of this library as the basis for this project, and even without citing its developper’s name, as a simple courtesy it would have cost nothing to make the “VGAx” word a link to the project.

  3. Great work Williams. Thanks for the inspiration as my son after reading your post created his un-used VGA monitor as a drawing toy. We thought of throwing it away, but you have given a great idea.

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