A solar-powered device with a small LCD screen

Low Power Challenge: LCD Solar Creatures Live On Sunlight, Sleep At Night

With all those e-paper based projects doing the rounds these days, including in our Low Power Challenge, you’d almost forget that monochrome LCDs were the original ultra-low-power display. Without them, we wouldn’t have had watches, calculators and handheld games operating off button cell batteries or tiny solar panels back in the ’80s and ’90s. [Gabor] decided to build a set of gadgets with a 1990s LCD aesthetic, called LCD Solar Creatures. These cute little beasts live on nothing but solar power and provide some amusing animations on a classic seven-segment LCD screen.

The Creatures’ activity depends entirely on the amount of power that’s available to them. If their supercapacitors dip below 3.3 V, their micros enter a deep sleep state and do nothing except briefly flash an LED every now and then as a sign of life. When light hits the solar panel, the supercaps are charged up and the Creatures come to life and display a few basic stats. Once the caps hit 4.1 V, they really start their day and run a few programs, including a Game of Life-style simulation and an animation of Euclidean rhythms. Continue reading “Low Power Challenge: LCD Solar Creatures Live On Sunlight, Sleep At Night”

Reliving A Bitmapped Past With A Veritable Hoard Of Bitmap Fonts

The fonts seen with old computer systems such as those from Apple and Commodore, as well as Microsoft Windows 3.1 and older, form an integral part of our interaction with these systems. These days such bitmap fonts are a rarity, with scalable vector-based fonts having taken their place on modern-day systems. This unfortunately also means that these fonts are at major risk of being lost to the sands of time. This is where [Rob Hagemans] seeks to maintain an archive of such bitmap fonts, ranging from Acorn to MSX to Windows.

Many of these fonts are extracted from character ROMs, with a preview of some of these fonts available via the Monobit viewer. The fonts themselves are made available in YAFF format, which is a text-based format that can be converted back to a binary format using the Monobit tool. If you ever wanted to use one of these old bitmap fonts in a project, this would seem to offer a treasure trove of options. The hoard of bitmap fonts might be the perfect fit for your next graphic LCD project.

(Via [SuperIlu] on Mastodon)

Reverse Engineering Saves Weller With A Wonky LCD From The Trash Pile

There’s nothing more satisfying than finding a broken piece of gear in the trash and bringing it back to life. Satisfying, but also potentially more time-consuming — someone tossed it for a reason, after all. Figuring out what that reason is and finding a way to back it better is where the fun — and the peril — are.

Luckily, some pieces of equipment have a relatively short list of well-known failure modes, a fact that [Lauri Pirttiaho] relied on for this fix of an old Weller WD1 soldering station. The unit, sporting the familiar light blue Weller livery and more than a few scratches and dings, had an LCD that was DOA. Typically it’s the driver that’s the problem here, but [Lauri]’s diagnosis revealed it was the LCD module itself that was bad.

With OEM replacements being basically unobtainium at this point, the fix was to intercept the data heading from the driver to the old LCD and send it to a new, easily sourced 16×2 character LCD display. This began with an inspection of the display controller’s datasheet, and a bit of probing of the old display to find out which segments and backplanes map to which pins. A little bit of case modding allowed the new display to fit, the old controller chip was removed, and a PIC16 went into its place, in a tidy nest of Kapton tape and bodge wires. The PIC does the job of translating the original display, which had a fair number of custom icons and symbols, into sensible text-based equivalents and sending them to the 16×2 via I2C. The video below shows the hack in action; it honestly looks like it could have come from the factory like that.

The nice thing here is that [Lauri]’s fix applies to a whole range of Weller stations, so if you find one in the trash, you might be able to resuscitate it. Failing that, you could always roll your own Weller from (more-or-less) scratch.

Continue reading “Reverse Engineering Saves Weller With A Wonky LCD From The Trash Pile”

What’s Inside A Super-Cheap Projector? Not A Lot!

[Raymond Ma] has a penchant for browsing Aliexpress and purchasing curious pieces of hardware that are as high on promises as they are low on cost. This is a process he aptly sums up with his opening line of “I should have known better, but…” Luckily, these devices all get torn down and analyzed so we can each enjoy and share a little slice of disappointment.

One such item is the $30 USD YT200 mini projector, which at 320×180 is almost as low on pixels as it is on cost. Still, [Raymond] looks inside to find out if there is perhaps more hacking potential than there is image resolution.

The YT200 lacks any kind of normal video input, and the anemic 15 lumen output is brazenly branded as a feature to protect children’s eyes from excessive brightness.

Light from the single LED is collimated with some Fresnel lenses. That light passes through an LCD panel, and from there the image bounces off a mirror and through a focusing lens housed in a spiral guide. Focal adjustments are made with a small lever, and the whole assembly provides just enough friction to prevent the lens from moving out of focus on its own.

The device actually does work fairly well for what it is: a way to play a range of different media types off a connected USB storage device. As long as one is in a dark room, anyway.

[Raymond] hopes to find some alternate use for the device. Might we suggest projecting into a frosted glass globe to create a sort of spherical display? A spooky eye animation on a USB stick might pair well with that.

A Game Boy Advance – Downgraded!

We feature a large number of game console mods here, because enhancing the experience of using a classic machine often involves some really clever work. But here’s one that’s a bit different, instead of upgrading his Game Boy Advance, [Wenting Zhang] has downgraded it from a colour screen to a monochrome LCD. Take a look at the video below the break.

One might ask why this would be necessary, given that there are plenty of backlit colour LCD upgrades already for the GBA, but perhaps people who played the original might understand that it’s about improving the viewability over the rather poor-quality colour LCD original.

Interesting too is the choice of display controller. Where it might be expected to find an FPGA, instead there’s an PR2040. He goes into detail about its programming, and we hope it might inspire any others looking at screen transplants. Meanwhile if the name [Wenting Zhang] means anything to you, it should be for his other work with mono LCDs.

Continue reading “A Game Boy Advance – Downgraded!”

2022 Cyberdeck Contest: Prototype Cyberdeck Is Anything But Questionable

We see many projects here at Hackaday, about which their creators are unreasonably modest. We like a good cyberdeck, and we think [betaraybiff] is one of those creators from their project description for a Prototype Cyberdeck of Questionable Practical Use. It may be a prototype, but we think it could be quite a practical computer.

At its heart is the ubiquitous Raspberry Pi 4 paired with a PiSugar power supply and a minimalist mechanical keyboard. The case is the interesting part, because it’s well-designed to be 3D printed in sections with the HDMI display hinging up from above the keyboard. The Pi is open and visible on top of the deck, but this could easily be covered with another printed piece if desired.

So we disagree on the practicality, given a train journey and this cyberdeck we think we could easily crack out a Hackaday article or two. Never undersell your creations, like this one they’re almost certainly better than you think.

If you’d like to see more of the 2022 Cyberdeck Contest, take a look at the best of the best.

An ortholinear keyboard with predominantly blank white keycaps. There are two red keycaps on the bottom outside corners. The center of the keyboard houses a large LCD in portrait orientation on a red PCB.

2022 Cyberdeck Contest: Keezyboost40 Is A Cyberdeck Masquerading As A Keyboard

There’s something to be said for über-powerful cyberdecks, but there’s also a certain appeal to less powerful decks squeezed into a tiny form factor. [Christian Lo] has designed a cyberdeck that looks like a simple ortholinear keyboard but is running a more flexible environment.

There are games and animations you can play on QMK, but [Lo] felt that a different framework would give him more flexibility to really stretch the limits of what this Raspberry Pi Pico-powered deck could do. He decided to go with a Rust-based firmware with the keyberon library and says, “it felt like I was in control of the firmware.” While the board is using Rust for now, [Lo] says he’s open to conversations about other firmware options to achieve his goals, like a virtual pet game for the board.

The PCB is described as “bog standard” with the possible exception of placing the Pi in a cutout on the board to keep things as low profile as possible. The trade-off comes in the form of reduced board rigidity and potentially increased strain on the connections to the microcontroller.

Looking for more cool cyberdecks? Check out the Winners of the 2022 Cyberdeck Contest or go see all the entries on the Contest Page.
Continue reading “2022 Cyberdeck Contest: Keezyboost40 Is A Cyberdeck Masquerading As A Keyboard”