New maker project — retro name badge


If you played pinball in the 80s, you know about 16-segment LED displays. They existed in the narrow technology window after mechanical switches and alarm-clock-style 7-segment displays, but before full dot-matrix displays or full video were feasible with off-the-shelf computer hardware. There’s something geekily charming about these old displays.

16 segments allow all alphabetic characters to be rendered…for the most part.

So naturally, I wanted to have a name badge made from these for FOGcon, which was 8 weeks away when I started this project. I would, in 8 weeks, conceive, design, construct, and debug a name badge based on this technology. With a professional printed circuit board. And a custom-programmed 32-bit microcontroller. All powered by a USB power bank.

You can find all kinds of electronic gadgets on Indiegogo and Tindie, but these pitches are always shown in the rosiest light. Seldom do you get a real-time view into a project, including all the little missteps and backtracks that are part of any maker project. Well, watch on.

Check out these videos for progress, starting with the schematic, revising it, creating a printed circuit board in KiCad, and revising it, then sending it off to get created, writing the code, and final assembly and debugging. Fun!

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5:

All the parts in a playlist

Since I ordered the PCB in a 10-pack, there are going to be extras to give away to Patreon and YouTube subscribers.

Please subscribe to my channel for the latest progress! -m

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