Casio F-91W, Going Dark

The Casio F-91W is easily one of the most iconic and popular watches worldwide. But what’s cool about having the same exact thing as millions of other people? Not much, unless of course you modify it to make it your own. That’s exactly what [Gautchh] did to their beloved watch. Between permanent dark mode, stereo blue LED backlights, and a new strap, this timepiece really stands out from the crowd.

Once [Gautchh] got the watch open, the first order of business was to re-polarize the LCD with a different film so the digits are light and the background is dark. This watch ships with a single green backlight LED that’s fairly faint, so [Gautchh] upgraded it to bright blue and added a second 1206 LED in parallel on the other side of the readout. Finally, they replaced the rubber strap with something less likely to chafe.

We think dark mode looks great, though [Gautchh] says it requires a little bit of training to hold your wrist just right to make it readable. They make these mods look easy, but they likely aren’t for the faint of heart. If you want to give it a shot, there are good step-by-step instructions and several pictures to help out.

We’ve seen a lot of Casio F-91W projects over the years, including a method for waterproofing the internals. If you have a lot of love for this watch, why not make a giant version?

Fully Backlit AlphaSmart NEO2 Lights Up The Night

The AlphaSmart NEO and NEO2 are great little word processors for distraction-free writing anywhere you want to go, but they lack the backlight of the later Dana model. Well, [starboyk] has done what many thought impossible and added a backlight to a NEO2. Experience gained from a ton of console mods and repairs led to the question of whether the NEO2’s LCD is similar to a Game Boy’s.

[starboyk] started with a fresh NEO2 from ebay, then swapped out the reflective polarizer for a translucent polarizer and added a trio of LED backlights meant for the original Game Boy across the back of the screen. The best part is that the backlight has its own power switch and a brightness control pot. It sounds easy enough, but this mod is not for the faint of heart as it sounds like a really tight fit in the end. Apparently we only need 500 orders to get a custom backlight manufactured, but barring that does anyone know of a backlight that’s 157mm x 44mm?

You can always stick with the mod where you power the USB-A port and use a USB reading light like I did with my NEO.

This Expedient Microfiche Reader Illuminates Retro Datasheets

You have to be of a certain vintage to remember doing research on microfilm and microfiche. Before the age of mass digitization of public records, periodicals, and other obscure bits of history, dead-tree records were optically condensed onto fine-grain film, either in roll form or as flat sheets, which were later enlarged and displayed on a specialized reader. This greatly reduced the storage space needed for documents, but it ended up being a technological dead-end once the computer age rolled around.

This was the problem [CuriousMarc] recently bumped into — a treasure trove of Hewlett-Packard component information on microfiche, but no reader for the diminutive datasheets. So naturally, he built his own microfiche reader. In a stroke of good luck, he had been gifted a low-cost digital microscope that seemed perfect for the job. The scope, with an HD camera and 5″ LCD screen, was geared more toward reflective than transmissive use, though, so [Marc] had trouble getting a decent picture of the microfiches, even with a white paper backing.

Version 2.0 used a cast-off backlight, harvested from a defunct DVD player screen, as a sort of light box for the stage of the microscope. It was just about the perfect size for the microfiches, and the microscope was able to blow up the tiny characters as well as any dedicated microfiche reader could, at a fraction of the price. Check out the video below for details on the build, as well as what [Marc] learned from the data sheets about his jackpot of HP parts.

With the wealth of data stored on microforms, we’re surprised that we haven’t seen any readers like this before. We have talked about microscopic wartime mail, though.

Continue reading “This Expedient Microfiche Reader Illuminates Retro Datasheets”

Low-Tech Fix Saves Expensive, High-Tech TV From Junk Pile

Wiggling this connector caused the backlight to turn off and on.

[Tweepy]’s TV stopped working, and the experience is a brief reminder that if a modern appliance fails, it is worth taking a look inside because the failure might be something simple. In this case, the dead TV was actually a dead LED backlight, and the fix was so embarrassingly simple that [Tweepy] is tempted to chalk it up to negligently poor DFM (design for manufacture) at best, or even some kind of effort at planned obsolescence at worst.

What happened is this: the TV appeared to stop working, but one could still make out screen content while shining a bright light on the screen. Seeing this, [Tweepy] deduced that the backlight had failed, and opened up the device to see if it could be repaired. However, the reason for the backlight failure was a surprise. It was not the power supply, nor even any of the LEDs themselves; the whole backlight wouldn’t turn on because of a cheap little PCB-to-PCB connector, and the two small spring contacts inside that had failed.

The failed connector, once cut open, showed contacts in poor condition (click to enlarge). It was ditched for a soldered connection, and the TV lived again.

From the outside things looked okay, but wiggling the connector made the backlight turn on and off, so the connection was clearly bad. Investigating further, [Tweepy] saw that the contact points of the PCBs and the two little conductors inside the connector showed clear signs of arcing and oxidation, leading to a poor connection that eventually failed, resulting in a useless TV. The fix wasn’t to clean the contacts; the correct fix was to replace the connector with a soldered connection.

Using that cheap little connector doubtlessly saved some assembly time at the factory, but it also led to failure within a fairly short amount of time. Had [Tweepy] not been handy with a screwdriver (or not bothered to investigate) the otherwise working TV would doubtlessly have ended up in a landfill.

It serves as a good reminder to make some time to investigate failures of appliances, even if one’s repair skills are limited, because the problem might be a simple one. Planned obsolescence is a tempting doorstep upon which to dump failures like this, but a good case can be made that planned obsolescence isn’t really a thing, even if manufacturers compromising products in one way or another certainly is.

An RGB Backlight For The Nokia 5110 LCD

Hardware hackers love the Nokia 5110 LCD. Or at least, they love the clones of it. You can pick up one of these panels for a couple bucks wherever electronic bits and bobs are sold, and integrating it into your project is a snap thanks to all the code and documentation floating around out there. But while it might be cheap and reliable, it’s not a terribly exciting component.

Which is perhaps why [Miguel Reis] thought he’d spruce it up a bit with an RGB backlight. While we’ll admit that this hack is mostly about looking cool, it’s not entirely without practical application. If your gadget experiences some kind of fault, having it flash the LCD bright red is sure to get somebody’s attention from across the room.

The board itself is very straightforward, with four MHPA1010RGBDT RGB LEDs and a couple of passives to keep them happy. The Nokia 5110 LCD module just pops right on, and beyond the extra pins added for the three LED colors, gets wired up the same as before. The backlight LEDs just need a few spare GPIO pins on your microcontroller to drive them, and away you go.

[Miguel] is currently selling his RGB version of this iconic LCD on Tindie for only a couple dollars more than the standard version, so it looks like a pretty cheap way to add a little bling to your next project. (Tindie is owned by Supplyframe, which also owns Hackaday. But they didn’t put us up to adding this link.)

New Depths For IMac Repair

There’s not much economic sense in fixing a decade-old desktop computer, especially when it’s the fancy type with the screen integrated into the body of the computer, and the screen is the thing that’s broken. Luckily for [JnsBn] aka [BEAN] the computer in question was still functional with a second monitor, so he decided to implement a cheap repair to get the screen working again by making it see-through.

The only part of the screen that was broken was the backlight, which is separate from the display unit itself. In order to view at least something on the screen without an expensive replacement part, he decided to remove the backlight altogether but leave the display unit installed. With a strip of LEDs around the edge, the screen was visible again in addition to the inner depths of the computer. After a coat of white Plasti Dip on the inside of the computer, it made for an interesting effect and made the computer’s display useful again.

While none of us, including the creator, recommend coating the inside of an iMac with Plasti Dip due to the risk of fire and/or other catastrophic failure, there’s not much to lose otherwise. Just don’t shove this one into the wall. Continue reading “New Depths For IMac Repair”

Great Artificial Daylight Via Broken TVs

[DIY Perks] has long been a fan of lights that accurately mimic real daylight. Often choosing high-quality LEDs for his projects, lately he’s taken a different tack – using broken televisions to produce attractive home lighting solutions.

The hack involves removing the backlight from the damaged television or monitor. These have a powerful white light inside, but the real key is that they also features a Fresnel lens. This helps the backlight appear very similar to a real skylight, due to the way it scatters light around the room.

Due to the difficulty of driving most LED and CCFL backlights, the project strips the original lighting out and replaces it with a set of high-CRI LED strips readily available off eBay. These are easily driven from 12 volts and give a white light more similar to actual daylight compared to most backlights. With the LEDs in place, the monitor’s original diffusers and Fresnel lens are put back in place, and the light is finished off with an aluminium frame.

Fitted to an angled ceiling, the light really does look as if actual sunlight is streaming through a window on a rainy day. It’s a pleasant effect that does a great job of lighting a room, and we suspect it would be excellent for general video work, too. [DIY Perks] is no stranger to a good studio light build, after all. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Great Artificial Daylight Via Broken TVs”