We’ve seen a lot of arcade machine builds here on Hackaday. Seriously, a lot. Even more so since the Raspberry Pi took over the world and made it so you didn’t have to cannibalize an old laptop to build one anymore. It’s one of those projects with huge appeal: either you’re somebody who’s built their own arcade, or you’re somebody who wishes they had. But even after seeing all these builds, we occasionally come across a specimen that deserves special recognition.
[Al Linke] recently wrote in to tell us about his arcade build, which we think you’ll agree is worth a closer look. The core build is actually a modification of a previously published design, but what makes this one unique is the addition of a programmable LED matrix in the top that actually shows the logo and artwork for whatever game you’re currently playing. This display really helps sell the overall look, and instantly makes the experience that much more authentic. Sure you don’t need the marquee of your home arcade machine to show era-appropriate artwork…but we know you want it to.
So how does one interface their Raspberry Pi with this beautiful 64×32 LED marquee display? Well it just so happens that [Al] is in the business of making cool LED displays, and even has a couple successful Kickstarter campaigns under his belt to prove it. He’s developed a board that lets you easily connect up to low-cost HUB75 LED panels such as the one used in the arcade. It’s been a few years since we’ve last seen a project that tackled these specific LED displays, and it’s encouraging to see how far things have come since then.
Even if you’re somehow not in love with the LED marquee, this build really does stand on its own as a fantastic example of a desktop arcade machine. [Al] went to great length to document his build, including putting together several videos during different phases of construction. If you’re curious about the start of the art for home arcade builds, this project would be a pretty good one to use as a barometer.
Wires? Where this LED scroller is going we don’t need wires. Well, except for power but everything needs power. The 90×7 LED marquee hangs over the entrance to NYC Resistor’s laser cutter room. Thanks to a Spark Core and a bit of work from [Trammell Hudson], the sign is working and attached to the network.
The original unit called for an RS485 connection for input. Other than that there wasn’t really a reason it had been collecting dust. Closer inspection of the internals proved that the display is driven exactly as you would expect: transistors for the rows and shift registers for the columns. Well, actually the columns are split into separate shift registers for the even and odd but that doesn’t complicate things too much. GPIO takes the seven row-driving transistors, two shift register clocks, data, latch, and enable for a total of twelve pins.
The Spark Core completely replaces the Atmel 80C32X2 and its RTC by pinging the network for UTC time synchronization once per day.
Keeping up with a kickstarter campaign can be quite a task, especially if your project is real (looking at you, Scribble Pen!) and you’re trying to keep up with product fabrication and all the other logistics involved in bringing a product to market. [macetech] are currently in the middle of a campaign themselves and built a loud, bright alert system to notify them of any new kickstarter backers.
The project uses a LED marquee to display the current number of backers, but every time a new backer contributes to the project, a blindingly bright green arrow traffic signal is illuminated and a piezo speaker plays a celebration tune. All of these devices are controlled by an Arduino Yun which, with its built-in Atheros chipset, easily connects to the network and monitors the kickstarter page for changes.
[macetech] used some interesting hardware to get everything to work together. They used a USB-to-RS232 cable with and FTDI chip to drive the LED marquee and a PowerSwitchTail 2 from Adafruit to drive the power-hungry traffic signal. Everything was put together in a presentable way for their workshop and works great! All of the source code is available on their project page, and you can check out their RGB LED Shades kickstarter campaign too.
It used to be that the contents of your pocket protector directly mirrored your geek level. But that just doesn’t cut it in our fast-paced digital age. We think [Jonathan] is headed down the right track though, by creating a scrolling LED name badge which he takes to conventions with him. With the right enclosure this could reach the same geek level as Woz’s watch. There’s a lot packed into the little device, but readability at close range doesn’t look like one the features so make sure you glance at the tag before you approach him for a conversation.
As you can see, the PCB for the project is the same form factor as a landscape ID card. It hosts an 8×5 LED matrix, which meshes nicely with the registers of the MSP430 chip which runs it. He admits that the hardware may not last very long as the chip is multiplexing the display directly, with no resistors or LED drivers for current protection. But there is potential in the design. It uses a rechargeable battery (which we like) and he included a QR code in the board artwork for easy exchange of contact information. We’ve embedded his description of the project after the break. Continue reading “Bring Your Own Name Badge”→
White board beats chalk board, LED marquee beats white board, and an LED white board trumps them all.
This hybrid lets you draw on the surface with dry erase markers while Conway’s game of life plays out underneath. [Bert] sent us this tip after seeing yesterday’s office marquee. This version is quite similar in appearance but the guts are very different. Inside you’ll find a Parallax SX28 microcontroller doing the heavy lifting. The display is multiplexed but they didn’t go with a common 595 shift register, but a beefier MAX6979 LED driver. We’re not too familiar with this part but it does have a lot of nice features like constant current, and automatic shutdown if serial data stalls for more than 1 second. This is a low-side driver so transistors are used to connect voltage to the rows; the opposite from the setup we looked at yesterday. This was built several years ago and is still working happily even though its permanent home is a breadboard. Source code can be found on this page.