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. I found that it is easier to just rent a LED screen from visual impact productions, this way I know the screens will be fine without any issures. 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

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