Arduino Library Makes Digital Rain Like It’s 1999

There’s going to be a new Matrix movie in theaters next month, and you know what that means: we’re about to see a whole new generation get obsessed with the franchise’s iconic “Digital Rain” effect. Thanks to modern advertisement technology, expect to see lines of glittering text pouring down the displays of everything from billboards to gas pumps pretty soon.

Doesn’t get much easier than that.

For those of us who’ve just been looking for an excuse to break out the old Matrix screensavers, you might as well get a jump on things using this handy Arduino library for the ESP8266 and ESP32. Developed by [Eric Nam], it lets you start up a digital rainstorm on displays supported by the TFT_eSPI library as easily as running digitalRainAnim.loop().

You can even install the library through the Arduino IDE, just open the Library Manager and search for “Digital Rain” to get started. You’ve still got to hook the display up to your microcontroller, but come on, [Eric] can’t do it all for you.

Looking at the examples, it seems like various aspects of the animation like color and speed can be configured by initializing the library with different values. Unfortunately we’re not seeing much in the way of documentation for this project, but by comparing the different examples, you should be able to get the high points.

While our first choice would certainly be a wall of green alphanumeric LED displays, we can’t help but be impressed with how easy this project makes it to spin up your own little slice of the Matrix on the workbench.

31 thoughts on “Arduino Library Makes Digital Rain Like It’s 1999

  1. Now this has me wondering if the effect is still recognizable on a relatively coarse LED matrix, I kinda want to put it on my Adafruit EyeLights.

    Really cool to see a library for this, nice hack!

    1. I was super excited when Neo used his mind powers to stop the Sentinels in Zion in the second matrix. So many potential plot points, was Zion just another layer in the matrix, was Neo magic. We never get to know, the third move just pretends that never happened, pissed me off so much. The sequels were garbage, and the one cool idea they introduced was ignored.

      1. maybe thats why the-source was so giving with his information,
        he is not capable of lying, but maybe is was capable of leaving-out important details…

        after-all, he does understand our tendencies to rebel… he created “us”/”them” and even indicated so…
        it does not take much forethought to assume he may have created a double-walled garden?
        the in-between layer would not be so much work, as its restricted to a limited area, population, and history.

        then again, maybe elon musk’s unreleased technology had something to do with it, sometimes the past is the future, it will be fun to find out!

  2. IIRC the original “Digital Rain” in the Matrix movies was made from a korean cookbook.
    I suppose this arduino library could be given a korean dictionary and display random Korean characters instead?

  3. What we really need in this modern age are augmented reality sunglasses that filter the world like the glasses from the 1988 film They Live. Doing ocr and then overlaying a translation of everything they read.

  4. The basic premise of all Matrix movies is silly: human batteries. No matter how you try or what technology you use, you cannot get more “energy’ out of human beings than you put in as food. You always have to put in more energy as food than you can take out. “Conservation of energy” is just about the most basic principle in physics.

    1. The lore that I always heard was that the story was supposed to have the humans as co-processors, but the general public couldn’t understand that so it got switched to batteries. It’s a movie though, you need some suspension of disbelief.

      1. That’s what I’ve heard too. Furthermore, nothing in the film actually depends on the whole “batteries” thing – if you watch it and just mentally replace “batteries” with “processors”, it works just fine.

        1. I really do wish they’d stuck with the “processors” idea though. It makes the premise so much more creepy – the idea that the machine minds and even the matrix itself are all running on the the brains of the people in the simulation.

  5. Hello, I’m a complete noob so bear with me please. I want to do this but I’ve got some questions:

    1. What’s the purpose of using the ESP32/ESP8266? Is it so you can wirelessly transmit the digital rain effect?
    2. Can you recommend any good color displays? I want an adequate sized one like 60 cm by 45 cm.
    3. Can you show the circuit diagram? So you upload the code from your Github to the Arduino then you interface the ESP32 and color display and VO LA. Digital rain? How exactly does the interfacing work?

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