There was a point in time, excruciatingly brief, in which desktop computers often had a large “TURBO” button on their front panel. Some even featured an LED display that would indicate the current CPU frequency, providing visual conformation that your machine had leaped to a blistering 66 MHz.
The 486 that [someyob] is restoring had the Turbo button, but sadly there was just a simple LED to show whether or not it was engaged. But there was a window in the front panel where it seemed like a numerical display was intended to go, so they decided to wire up their own CPU indicator by sensing the state of the Turbo LED with an Arduino Pro Mini.
Now to modern audiences, this might seem like cheating. After all, the Arduino isn’t actually measuring the CPU speed, nor is it directly controlling it (that’s still done by the original Turbo button wiring). But the truth is, even back in the day, the CPU frequency displays faked it — they just toggled between showing two predefined frequencies depending on the state of the button. The arrangement [someyob] has come up with does the same thing, except now there’s some extra processing power in the mix, so the display can show some slick animations as it switches between 33 and 66 Mhz.
In the GitHub repository, [someyob] has provided the Arduino source code and schematics showing how the microcontroller was shoehorned into the existing front panel wiring without compromising its functionality. There’s even a brief video below that shows the display in operation.
Like the idea but don’t have a 486 laying around? Don’t worry. We’ve seen a similar panel built for modern machines that just doesn’t look the part, it actually manages to be functional.