Universal TFT Display Backpack Helps Small Displays Shine

TFT technology might be ancient news for monitors and TVs, but it’s alive and well when it comes to hobbyist electronics and embedded devices. They’ve now become even easier to integrate, thanks to the Universal TFT Display Backpack design by [David Johnson-Davies].

Breakout board, compatible with pinouts of most small TFT displays.

Such displays are affordable and easy to obtain, and [David] noticed that many seemed to have a lot in common when it came to pinouts and hookup info. The result is his breakout board design, a small and easy-to-assemble PCB breakout board that can accommodate the pinouts of a wide variety of TFT displays available from your favorite retailers or overseas sellers.

The board has a few quality-of-life features such as an optional connection for a backlight, and a staggered pin pattern so that different TFT boards can be pushed in to make a solid connection without soldering. That’s very handy for testing and evaluating different displays.

Interested? Head on over to the GitHub repository for the project, and while you’re at it, check out [David]’s Tiny TFT Graphics Library 2 which is a natural complement to the display backpack. [David] sure knows his stuff when it comes to cleverly optimized display work; we loved his solution for writing to OLED displays without needing a RAM buffer.

The Thin-Film Flexible 6502

While our attention is mostly directed towards ever smaller-integrated silicon circuits providing faster and faster computing, there’s another area of integrated electronics that operates at a much lower speed which we should be following. Thin-film flexible circuitry will provide novel ways to place electronics where a bulky or expensive circuit board with traditional components might be too expensive or inappropriate, and Wikichip is here to remind us of a Leuven university team who’ve created what is claimed to be the fastest thin-film flexible microprocessor yet. Some of you might find it familiar, it’s our old friend the 6502.

The choice of an archaic 8-bit processor might seem a strange one, but we can see the publicity advantage — after all, you’re reading about it here because of it being a 6502. Plus there’s the advantage of it being a relatively simple and well-understood architecture. It’s no match for the MHz clock speeds of the original with an upper limit of 71.4 kHz, but performance is not the most significant feature of flexible electronics. The production technology isn’t quite ready for the mainstream so we’re unlikely to be featuring flexible Commodore 64s any time soon, but the achievement is the impressive feat of a working thin-film flexible microprocessor.

Meanwhile, if you’re curious about the 6502, we took a look at the life of its designer, [Chuck Peddle].

Monitor For Bedridden Patients Aims To Improve Care

One of the joys of being a Maker and Hacker is solving problems and filling needs. When you can do both, well, that’s something special. [rodrigo.mejiasz]’s project surely fits into that special category of solving a problem and filling a dire need with his Bedridden Patient Monitor.

While [Rodrigo]’s project page does not specify his motivation for creating this project, one only needs to look as far as their local hospital ward or senior care facility to understand why this device is so wonderful. Healthcare workers and caregivers are stretched paper thin, and their attention is being constantly interrupted.

This is where the Bedridden Patient Monitor comes in. A healthy person can reposition themselves if they are uncomfortable, but bedridden patients cannot. It’s not just that a bedridden patient is unable to get out of bed, but that they are unable to move themselves without assistance. The result is a great amount of pain. And if left unchecked, pressure sores can be the result. These are not only extremely unpleasant, but an added danger to a patients health.

The Bedridden Patient Monitor steps in and provides not just an egg-timer like alert, but helps caregivers track a patients position in bed across even several working shifts. This ensures a continuity of care that might otherwise be easy to miss.

The beauty of this build is in its application but also its simplicity: it’s just an Arduino Mega, a TFT shield with its Micro SD card, and the touch screen itself. A few LED’s and a buzzer take care of alerts. A thoughtfully configured interface makes the devices use obvious so that staff can make immediate use of the monitor.

Makers have a long history diving into the medical field, such as this stab wound treatment device that won the Dyson award in 2021.

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TFT35 Dual Mode 3D Print Control – Hands On

I was rebuilding one of my 3D printers — again — and decided I needed a display upgrade. A color screen is nice, but there are some limitations. I also found there are ways around these limitations, so I wanted to share my thoughts on a dual-mode color touch screen LCD controller for your 3D printer. The screen in question is a TFT35 from BigTree Tech. It is similar to an MKS screen, but it can operate in two different modes, as you will see.

A few years ago, I picked up an Anet A8 which was very inexpensive, especially on sale. Not the best printer, though, because it has that cheap acrylic frame. No problem. A box full of aluminum extrusion later, the printer was reborn. Over time, I’ve completely reworked the extrusion system and the Y-axis, leaving only the motors, bearings, and the controller/display as the original.

That last part was what bothered me. The Anet board is actually pretty capable for a small cheap board. But it is just what the printer needs and nothing more. If you wanted to hack the printer there was very little memory left and only one spare pin for I/O. So it was time to replace the board and why not the controller, too?

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EMOJO Chatbot Will Be There For You

We all need someone to talk to sometimes, and the pandemic has only made matters worse when it comes to the number of people living with anxiety and depression. Exchanging the simplest of pleasantries can make you feel whole again, but the masks make it hard to engage with strangers and judge their emotions, so your big trip to the grocery store can make you feel lonely in a crowd.

So you go back home, still feeling lonely, and maybe you turn on the TV. Watching people interact is probably the next best thing to actual interaction, and it might even make you laugh. But have you ever wished you could talk to the people on TV? With [aniketdhole]’s EMOJO chatbot, you’ll feel as though you’re among friends. And technically you are — all the dialogue is from the TV show Friends.

In Castaway, Tom Hanks didn’t give that volleyball a frowny face, now did he? Nor does he have a dopey grin. Instead, he wears a wry smile that suggests depth of character and a grasp of the dire situation at hand. But now we have emoji, and they do a pretty good job of conveying and evoking emotion. EMOJO is a visual chatbot that uses voice and emoji to make easy, two-way conversation to help chase the loneliness away. It uses a Raspberry Pi and a TFT display to take voice input from a Bluetooth headset, convert it to text, and then respond in kind with both voice and text. It was a finalist in the rethink displays round of the Hackaday Prize, and we can’t wait to see how its character develops. Be sure to check out the demo after the break.

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A Handy Reference For Display Drivers And LCD Controllers

Ever tried to find the data on a mysterious LCD controller that’s kicking around in your parts bin? Well check out this list of various LCD controllers that [Achim] has put together. He summarizes the basic specifications for each controller and includes data sheet links if available (note — the website is in German, although most of the data itself is in English). All in all, he has collected 72 controllers from five different manufacturers, and 46 of them have data sheets. For each controller, he tabulates maximum resolution, color depth, type of interface, and the targeted display technology. For example, here is the entry for the Ilitech ILI9341 TFT controller commonly found in embedded projects:

Furthermore, many of the controllers also have a short video clip showing them in operation posted over on [Achim]’s YouTube channel, where he also has a bunch of quick (less than one minute) videos of all sorts of embedded goodies. We do find this table of controllers to be a little dated — for example, another popular controller used on small color OLED displays, the Solomon Systech SDS1351, is not included. But it is certainly a good resource to bookmark.

We suspect that [Achim] made this table as a result of developing µGUI, a small (only three files) C-language graphics library (see the GitHub repository) he released back in 2015. Do you have any good resources for tracking down unknown LCD controllers? If so, share in the comments below. And thanks to [Dmitry] for sending in this tip.

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Greeking Out With Arduinos

Learning a new language is hard work, but they say that the best way to learn something is to teach it. [Angeliki Beyko] is learning Greek, and what better way to teach than to build a vocabulary flash-card game from Arduinos, color screens, 1602 text screens, and arcade buttons? After the break, we have a video from the creator talking about how to play, the hardware she chose, and what to expect in the next version.

Pegboard holds most of the hardware except the color screens, which are finicky when it comes to their power source. The project is like someone raided our collective junk drawers and picked out the coolest bits to make a game. Around the perimeter are over one hundred NeoPixels to display the game progress and draw people like a midway game. Once invested, you select a category on the four colored arcade buttons by looking at the adjacent LCD screens’ titles. An onboard MP3 shield reads a pseudo-random Greek word and displays it on the top-right 1602 screen in English phonetics. After that, it is multiple choice with your options displaying in full-color on four TFT monitors. A correct choice awards you a point and moves to the next word, but any excuse to mash on arcade buttons is good enough for us.

[Angeliki] does something we see more often than before, she’s covering what she learned, struggled with, would do differently, and how she wants to improve. We think this is a vital sign that the hacker community is showcasing what we already knew; hackers love to share their knowledge and improve themselves.

Typing Greek with a modern keyboard will have you reaching for an alt-code table unless you make a shortcut keyboard, and if you learn Greek, maybe you can figure out what armor they wore to battle.

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