While the SSD1306 OLED has somewhat become the go-to display for up-to-date projects, the good old character displays with their Hitachi HD44780 controller don’t seem to be disappearing just yet either. And why would they, especially if you want to show just text, having a built-in font has certainly its perk compared to worrying about integrating your own characters — which you can still do on top as well. Or perhaps you can combine both worlds, which is what [oldmaninSC] did with his digital clock that takes an entire 16×2 LCD to show each single digit.
The whole clock uses 16 individual, upright rotated 16×2 LCDs that are arranged in two rows of eight LCDs each, turning the entire construct sort of into a giant 8×2 display itself. For some additional information such as the date, there’s also a smaller font available that uses only half the height, allowing up to four total rows of information. To communicate with each LCD via I2C, two TCA9548A I2C multiplexers are connected to an Arduino, along with an RTC to keep track of the time and date itself.
As the TCA9548A has three pins dedicated to define its own address, the entire clock could be scaled up to a total of 64 LCDs — so how about a 16×4 display made out of 16×4 displays? Sure, adding smooth scrolling might become a bit tricky at some point, but imagine playing Tetris on that one!
Here’s a sunrise alarm clock that keeps perfect time. It was designed and built by [Renaud Schleck] who also published a post detailing the process.
As you can see, a series of white LEDs inside of the transparent case which provide the simulated sunrise. As the days get short and the nights longer we do see the benefit of having your clock brighten the room before it jolts you out of your slumber. Speaking of, that alarm sound seems to be the weak link in his design. He’s using a square wave smoothed with capacitors to drive a speaker at either end of the case. We didn’t hear an example but we imagine this not the most gentle of sounds.
The rest of the design is quite well done. He’s using a 4×20 Character LCD display and adjusts the backlight using PWM. A DCF77 radio feeds data from an atomic clock signal to the MSP430 chip which runs the clock. There’s even a battery backup in case the power goes out.
We just saw a project yesterday that aims to improve signal quality with a DCF77 radio.
Part of the pre-Vista hype was the idea of auxiliary displays. Laptop and desktop displays would provide additional information from your computer. The Vista SideShow feature hasn’t really caught on and the surplus hardware has started to drop in price. Take this PicoLCD for example: It’s a 4×20 character LCD with an IR receiver, multiple buttons, and a USB connection. The best part is: it has Linux drivers and an open source SDK. We know a lot of you like wiring up HD44780 based screens, but it’s hard to pass up a $50 prepackaged solution with such nice extras.