LED Sign Hacking

by on Jan.26, 2009, under Projects

Led Sign Block Diagram
We’ve started a Hacklab project to bring utility to some surplus LED sign panels that have been hanging around the HackLab! These panels use a high-speed digital serial interface, which has been reverse-engineered by Dan and Andrew. It’s a very complicated and strange system. If you’re interested in digital logic, ask us to explain how it works.

In order to make the panels easy to use for members, we’re going to permanantly mount them on the wall over the stairs.  They’re going to be attached to a nice painted piece of plywood (steev!) and wired up to a server.  We’re going to do some circuitry to allow the sign’s power to be automatically controlled.

We’re going to interface the LED panels with a host computer using an Arduino.  Our previous efforts pushed the limits of the Arduino’s performance, but we were running completely unoptmized code.  Hopefully with a few tweaks, and by getting a bit more low level, we can move the serial data fast enough for an adquite scan rate.

The Arduino’s USB Serial interface will be used to interface the sign with the host computer, which will most likely be running BMix with a custom output plugin.  BMix is software developed by Andrew, Dan and Jonathan for the Blinkenlights project in Toronto, and is very good at controlling a matrix of lights.  It will allow the display to be operated using a standard UDP protocol which already has lots of language support, and will also allow it to be easily shared between a number of users and applications at the lab.  There’s even a video game API.

This is the start of the project and the basic design… More information, photographs, and geeky details will be coming as we dig deeper.


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