Had an interesting idea and made it work.

(Mods if this is the wrong place for this post sorry and please move it).

Hi all,

I ran across a website that has info on using the FTDI USB->serial chip in bit-bang mode http://hackaday.com/2009/09/22/introduction-to-ftdi-bitbang-mode

Anyway, I had been working with a Noritake VFD (vacuum fluorescent display) module that uses the HD44780U command set and has both the standard parallel inputs and also a serial input (not RS-232 serial but an SPI-like serial).

The bulb lit up in my head… bit bang plus SPI serial display = simple display from any USB port!

It turned out to be insanely simple to do. The USB cable with the FTDI breakout board on the other end plugs into the VFD module and even supplies power to it from the USB!

All I need to do is “print” standard input to the little driver program and the display displays it.

With a small BASH script (or a Batch file on Windows) you can read data from your computer (like CPU temperature, HDD free space, whatever), format it and send it to the little display.

I plan to use one to monitor my RAID file server CPU core temperatures and disk free space.

Attached is the source code for it… should anyone be interested. It’s fully commented - should be easy for anyone to compile.

(click pic for full res)
vfd_ftdi.jpg

ftdi_to_vfd.zip (3.58 KB)

Nice :slight_smile:

Where the H did you find the display?

aarg:
Where the H did you find the display?

(click pic for link)

You can also buy them right from Noritake for a “sample” price which is usually around 1/2 the selling price.

They even had a promotion a while back where they sold a 128x64 graphics VFD (KS-108 compatible) for $38 USD.

The nice thing about most of them is that they have the standard Hitachi HD44780 command set and the standard 14 pin interface (that means they drop in place of an LCD with NO hardware or code changes).

I love VFD displays… especially the color of the phosphor. :slight_smile: