Photo of the spectrophotometer in question, with a screenshot of the decoding software on the right

Exporting Data From Old Gear Through LCD Sniffing

[Jure Spiler] was at a flea market and got himself a spectrophotometer — a device that measures absorbance and transmittance of light at different wavelengths. This particular model seems to be about 25 years old, and it’s controlled by a built-in keyboard and uses a graphical LCD to display collected data. That might have been acceptable when it was made, but it wasn’t enough for [Jure]. Since he wanted to plot the spectrophotometry data and be able to save it into a CSV file, hacking ensued.

He decided to tap into the the display communication lines. This 128×64 graphical display, PC-1206B, uses a 8-bit interface, so with a 16-channel logic analyzer, he could see the data being sent to the display. He even wrote decoder software – taking CSV files from the logic analyzer and using primitive optical recognition on the decoded pixels to determine the digits being shown, and drawing a nice wavelength to absorbance graph. From there, he set out to make a standalone device sniffing the data bus and creating a stream of data he could send to a computer for storage and processing.

[Jure] stumbled into a roadblock, however, when he tried to use an Arduino for this task. Even using a sped-up GPIO library (as opposed to notoriously inefficient digitalRead), he couldn’t get a readout frequency higher than 80 KHz – with the required IO readout rate deemed as 1 MHz, something else would be called for. We do wonder if something like RP2040 with its PIO machinery would be better for making such captures.

At that point, however, he found out that there’s undocumented serial output on one of the pins of the spectrophotometer’s expansion port, and is currently investigating that, having shelved the LCD sniffing direction. Nevertheless, this serves as yet another example for us, for those times when an LCD connection is all that we can make use of.

We’ve seen hackers sniff LCD interfaces to get data from reflow ovens, take screenshots from Game Boys and even equip them with HDMI and VGA ports afterwards. With a skill like this, you can even give a new life to a vintage calculator with a decayed display! Got an LCD-equipped device but unsure about which specific controller it uses? We’ve talked about that!

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Living The Dream: New PCB For A Dirt-Cheap Calculator Watch

Well, this hack has us tickled pink. We love the idea of buying some really cheap piece of technology and doing something amazing with it, and this is a textbook example of that. [davedarko] found the cutest little calculator watch on Ali Express and is working on making a new PCB for it. The plan is to use an ARM processor and Arduino and add a few extras like 24-hour mode and a pink (or potentially RGB) backlight. The new brain will be an ATSAML22G18A, which has an on-board LCD controller and exactly one I/O pin to spare without charlieplexing the buttons.

One of [davedarko]’s primary goals is to keep the LCD and figure out how to talk to it. The first order of business was reverse engineering the watch’s LCD controller by sussing out the secrets from beneath the black blob of epoxy. This was an eye-opening experience as [davedarko] had never worked directly with LCDs before. A strange reading made him bust out the oscilloscope. Long-ish and informative story short, [davedarko] found out that it uses a bias of 1/2 for generating the wave necessary to multiplex the segments and keep the signal alternating. This is definitely one to watch!

We love timepieces around here and have seen all kinds of hacks, especially on Casio watches. Want dark mode? Done. Enable the hidden countdown timer? We’ve got that, too. And have you ever wondered just how water-resistant the F91W is?

Manual LCD Makes Information Display Tedious, Educational

The HD44780 is one of the first chips we learned about as a kid, and chances are good you’ve used one in your project at some point, and almost certain that you’ve interacted with one in your life. The character LCD is ubiquitous, easy to interface, and very robust. They come in sizes from 8 x 1 to 20 x 4 and even larger, but they almost all have the same pinout, and there are libraries in many embedded environments for interacting with them. [The 8-Bit Guy] decided to interface with one using just switches and a button, (YouTube, embedded) with the intent of illustrating exactly how to use them, and how easy they are.

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Cool New Hardware Spectacular

press release

It should come as no surprise the Hackaday tip line is regularly flooded with press releases. Everything from an infographic comparing Call of Duty 3 to Battlefield 3 (yes, totally serious), announcements that a company we’ve never heard of is getting a new CFO, to the business proposals from hat box manufacturers that wind up in our inbox on a nearly weekly basis.

With the Hackaday crew sifting though hundreds of these emails a month, you’d figure the PR people would hit gold once in a while, right? Apparently not. The coolest stuff we get in our email is usually from an engineer working on a project and doing a PR rep’s job for them. We thank them for that, so here’s two really cool pieces of hardware that showed up in the tip line recently.

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