Dec 302011


Front of LCD display

The Simple Serial Display is a trivial accessory for your PC, Mac, or microcontroller to act as an always-on information display for whatever data you can serialize and push out of a traditional tty port.  Since I’m out of grad school on winter break, I decided to clean it up a bit and make it look nice.

This project came out of some hacking that Hilary Mason and I were doing back in ’09 for fun.  At Barcamp 2009, we presented it as a trivial project for anyone to build without complex electronics and with friendly Python and PySerial – a project within reach of any dev or sysadmin that might stare at progress bars.  One compelling use is to monitor long-running tasks, such as your mega MapReduce job.  The display includes an LED “flag” to alert you to whatever you care to be alerted about, such as the end of a job or an interruption, and the LCD panel can print simple progress bars or animated slash marks to track job completion.

The original design remains the same (specifications can be found in the Slideshare-hosted presentation below) leveraging a common FTDI brand serial cable (or similar,) and Sparkfun’s two line text LCD with their “Serial Backpack” adapter.

I dug around in the Resistor scrap bin and found a nice 6mm thick piece of clear acrylic, and used Zignig’s Box-o-Tron parametric box generator found on Thingiverse ( to construct the enclosure. After some tweaks and prototyping with foamcore board, I came away with a delightfully tight design.  Considering this is my first project on the Epilog, I’m happy it didn’t require a lot of trial and error.

As with all casual projects, there’s a lot of room for improvement, but I’m pleased with the output of today’s effort.

 Posted by at 11:58 pm