LCD Screen Windows Are This Summer’s Hottest Case Mod

Case modding took off in the late 90s, and taught us all that computers could (and should!) look awesome. Much of the aesthetic went mainstream, and now tons of computer cases come with lights and windows and all the rest. [WysWyg_Protogen] realized those simple case windows could be way cooler with a neat LCD hack, and set to work.

The concept is simple. Take an old LCD monitor, remove the backlight and extraneous hardware, and then install it to the window in a computer case. When lit from behind via LEDs in the case, the screen creates a ghostly display through which the computer’s internals can still partially be seen. It’s a really compelling effect, and in theory, quite easy to achieve. All one need do is mount the stripped-down screen to the case and pipe it video from the graphics card.

In practice, it’s a little tricky. Disassembling the screen and removing things like the anti-glare coating can be tough to do without damaging the delicate panel inside. The windows typically used on computer cases can dull the effect, too. However, [WysWyg_Protogen] is continuing to tinker with the project and the results are getting increasingly impressive with each iteration. It doesn’t photograph too well, but it looks truly amazing in motion.

We often forget LCDs are transparent in their basic form, as we generally only use them with backlights or reflective backers. They really do look great when used in this transmissive way, though. Video after the break.


21 thoughts on “LCD Screen Windows Are This Summer’s Hottest Case Mod

  1. Check out the iBuyPower Snowblind case. A commercial product that did the same. Unfortunately very rare. I think it was only available as part of complete pc from iBuyPower. I tried to get one second hand for some time, but no success. Only source i could find is a shop in the USA that does not ship to my country.

  2. In the ’70s/’80s the future was supposed to be LCD house windows – instead of curtains or blinds you’d have a knob on the wall to darken the windows. These days it would have to be internet-connected with a smartphone app. But sometimes the future never comes.

    1. Or it comes way later than we expect, or only to the few. LCD house windows still exist, just not in most houses. Too expensive and brittle to be of use as normal glass, at least how they normally manufacture it. I’d honestly be curious if it would be possible to convert existing windows. Now I’m gonna go do some searching.

      1. “Switchable glass”, “privacy glass” or, worse, “smart glass” is readily available, but not cheap, for use as interior partitions, doors and windows: it is robust enough to use instead of boring old glass.

        But it just changes from transparent to a translucent milky colour, at least all the stuff I found online or have seen in “Grand Designs” self-builds.

        Still hoping for an affordable version of the Blade Runner (huge) picture window that has a neutral density filter effect moving smoothly vertically to cast dramatic light over your VoightKampff machine.

    2. At work, we have a conference room with one wall floor to ceiling glass including the door. Overall there’s roughly 20 feet by 8 feet of glass.

      The entire glass area is switchably obscured (white) by an LCD film. So, LCD windows exist in that sense. Thought of as a display medium, the resolution is tragically low in that there are a total of 5 giant “pixels” in one row which could be controlled individually but are not.

      It ain’t cheap but it is cool.

    3. I recently worked for a company who wrote building automation software for a customer who specialized in making “electrochromic glass”, which is exactly what you’re talking about.

      The company that makes the glass is called SageGlass and the glass is extremely expensive, but it has been installed in multiple high-end flagship buildings and can go from fully clear to fully tinted black, or anything in between (not like the frosty white privacy glass).

      It was pretty cool stuff, I got to work with very tiny panels of their glass for development purposes and I got to tour the factory where the glass is produced. Absolutely wild stuff, it wasn’t easy to make the glass and they explained the physics behind it but that was above my pay grade.

    4. If you buy a Dreamliner, you get dozens of those windows for free, with a button right underneath to control its darkness. They they even have remote control, which is good because half the seat dwellers next to the windows can’t figure out the button.

      For those with more modest budgets, or less storage space than a Dreamliner would take up, you can get the “single pixel display” LCD shutters pretty cheaply. Made (in)famous by Naomi Wu’s “Blinkini” LCD shutter top.

  3. This is used on many new slot machines. They have a transparent LCD in front of a set of physical* reels. Typically the space around the reels is backlit so graphics are displayed there, often doing a convincing imitation of “old school” artwork, 7 segment LEDs etc. Some of them look like they’re supposed to be an old machine that’s been given a technology upgrade.

    But when the player his some special bonus, the inside lighting on the reels is turned off and graphics displayed over the now black area, with light piped across by (I assume) some special transparent film. Works like a vehicle with dark windows at night. Turn a light on inside and you can’t see out, but people outside can see in. Park under a streetlamp and you can see out of the car but those outside can’t see in.

    Some restrict those graphics to the reel area, some ruin the illusion by displaying the special graphics across the entire panel.

    *They’re real reels but what they show has long been computer controlled, virtually expanded to a very large size. The computer in the machine determines which graphic to bring into alignment, or mis-alignment, in front.

  4. Hot take… We’re never away from our computers long enough these days so we need somewhere else to display the screen saver. :-D

    I’d put a proper screen on the side of my case and use it as “the” screen before I’d do this, but I guess if I had one I’d stick on the “souls escaping” clip from Raiders of the Lost Ark on it to freak out visitors.

    1. No reason you can’t do both – with one or perhaps two of the diffuser sheets left in its still pretty much transparent*, just very lightly frosted so you can still see through it if you really want to, but turn on the LED backlight(s) and its an entirely normal monitor that at worst has less even brightness.

      *well the one monitor I have taken apart that far was, your mileage may well vary. Though I expect you can find the right balance of transparent and not see through, even enough backlight, to be an actually usable monitor with some work even if you have to find new ways of diffusing the light..

      1. Hmmm, and combine infinity mirror and a peppers ghost diagonal to a super bright old cellphone screen in top of the case so it looks like you hit a button and your screen “falls in” by like 2 feet.

  5. this fad cycles in and out every few years, its neat but it only really works wells on cases where the insides are predominantly white and doesnt look like someone vomited a bunch of junk in a box

  6. Um, sorry sweaty, but this kind of thing increases climate change sea levels and creates more waste in landfills in the ocean near China and India. Please cease destroying the environment and killing manatees. They are a marginalized community too.

    1. It might create more waste, but equally it might actually reduce the hazardous electronic waste for a while anyway – all depends on if the monitor was surplus to requirements on the way to scrap or bought new specially for the job…

      As for increasing climate change, dubious – even if you assume the LCD panel is constantly fed a signal so always on its barely pulling any power – the power draw of such a monitor is largely in creating the illumination not the image, and the processing power required to drive that image is also pretty much zip. Sure it will add up over years but its not that wasteful of electricity, and that is assuming its on 100% of the time, certainly nothing on the freezer, fridge, AC/heat most folks have at all times, probably not much more extra power consumed than the ‘idle’ wireless charger pad (though if we could get rid of the stupid RGB everything inside a PC fad that would be great)…

      Now consider the amount of entertainment and enjoyment building and having such a case mod brings – if instead they drove to a cinema for those hours (or something similarly low end in the environmental destruction stakes) they could easily consume far more energy just getting there, and worse its almost certainly ALL fossil fuel sourced, where the power for their workshop MAY have come in part from renewable or nuclear and even if its fossil fuel is still generally greener burned in a big efficient power station with proper exhaust cleaning…

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