Hackaday Prize Entry: PaperBack Desktop EPaper Monitor

Paperback: ePaper desktop monitor playing Doom

When we announced the Hackaday Prize with its Best Product category, [PK] polled his wife and co-workers about the idea of making a desktop monitor using 6″ 800×600 ePaper, which he has since built and calls the PaperBack. One such requirement for a monitor is to be able to connect to it using one of the usual desktop methods: VGA, DVI or HDMI. Given his previous experience making his own VGA card for the 2015 prize, he went with that. HDMI is in the works.

But it ended up being more than a desktop monitor. He first made a power and breakout board that a VGA input board would eventually connect to. To test it, he included a socket for plugging in an ESP32. With only one bodge he had the Hackaday logo displayed on the ePaper. He also now had the option of using it as a wireless internet connected display.

Moving on to VGA support, [PK] made a VGA input board using the MST9883 chip, which does the A/D conversion of the VGA RGB graphics signal and also recovers a pixel sampling clock from the HSYNC. His new VGA ePaper monitor has to identify itself to the VGA source, telling it dimensions, resolution and so on. This is called the EDID and was handled by the addition of an Atmel ATmega328 to the board. To finish it off, an LCMXO1200C FPGA does the high-speed conversions with the help of a 4 MBit SRAM framebuffer.

His very first test involved simply displaying the Hackaday logo using the ESP32, but now with the VGA input board he has it displaying Doom. Since it’s using ePaper it has only a 1-second refresh rate but it’s hard to come up with a more awesome way to proved that it works. He can also unplug it at any time and walk away with the latest screenshot intact. See it for yourself in the video below.

If you want to make your own PaperBack, [PK] has documented it thoroughly, including all code and schematics on GitHub.

These ePaper displays are a lot of fun to hack and we’ve seen them a few times here on Hackaday. A very cool example is this ePaper on a business card. You also can’t beat ePaper for reading in bright sunlight, which is why [Mike Holden] adapted one for displaying the weather while on his sailboat.

23 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: PaperBack Desktop EPaper Monitor

    1. Man years ago, when smartphones and tablets were just starting out, a few companies had proposed dual-screen tablets with a standard display on one side, and an E-ink display on the other. I still want one.

        1. i have the yotaphone 2. I love it. I thought it would be a bit gimmicky or maybe a one trick pony. but it is genuinly handy. I don’t actually read books on it (i have a kindle for that and even then i prefer dead tree) but to have the time, weather, next appointment, alerts for text messages or email without having to do anything is great.

          i note samsung is now playing with always on display using their oled screen (you only pay for the pixels you use) but its not as useful in my opinion (small and minimalist by design and necessity).

  1. Little tip: heat up the screen (cough 3D printer heated bed /cough) and it will refresh 3-4* a second.
    At 40C it is noticeably faster and this does not damage it as far as I can see.
    Another hack is to get a piece of flexible graphite similar to the ones used on OLED based smartphones (cheap, about £3) and apply that to the back of panel then heat one edge with a resistor. This will distribute heat evenly across the panel.

    1. Thank you, interesting idea!

      I tried a few refresh rates down to ~ 450 or 500ms at room temperatures. With these models there was too much ghosting, or I was sacrificing too much contrast or color depth. I’ll try to give this a go with one of the setups!

  2. I only found out about this when taking apart two broken S6’s so pretty sure any phone from that era has these. Hint: it virtually doubles the useful life of OLED panel by reducing burn-in so much that Samsung paid Sony for the patent!
    OLED TVs have this but good luck finding one of these as they usually use plasma-style construction and are a complete nightmare to get apart!
    Interestingly an OLED/E-ink hybrid is also feasible if anyone wants to try it, the EPD060 is indeed translucent so someone can have great fun making such a screen.
    The big problem with DIY arrangements is that wavetable is stored in the reader’s memory so anyone buying a scavenged panel will not have this useful data and have to guess it.
    Hence severe ghosting!
    I have two panels here one of which is installed in my PRS600 if anyone wants them, please mailto http://www.asianhor.net

  3. I am interested in an e-ink secondary display on a smartphone because I often do flashcards while walking on the sidewalk and it is hard to see the screen in the sunlight.

    I am interested in an e-ink display for a car computer. That way, when the car is off it can display an image of an old-school analog radio face to fool potential thieves who only take a quick glance through the window.

    I can’t imagine what an e-ink display would be good for on a desktop.

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