Run an LCD with power, switches and no arduino

I've not tried this yet but I have a candidate and will give feed back when I do.

And kudos to the magazine

That article has been around for more than a decade. A lot of the material in part one will give you a good background if you want to learn what some of the more advanced LiquidCrystal functions actually do or if you want to write your own LCD library, but it is far easier to do your experimenting using the Arduino rather than switches, pull-up resistors, and debounce circuits. You would want to look into the Arduino 'Port Manipulation' techniques.

The PIC program in part 2 is rather crude - especially the time delays, but the explanation is worth reading. Note that both parts rely on initialization using the 'Internal Reset Circuit' which doesn't always work.