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Esquire's e-Ink cover

A friend writes:

If anyone is interested in hacking the E-Ink version of the October issue of Esquire, here's some info. First, it's not available everywhere, but just in major stores like Borders and Barnes & Nobel. I got one at the Emeryville Borders. They have a display rack full of them.

After removing the paper, tape, printed plastic and foam padding, here's what's left: (see pic)

The PCB has 6 (!) 3V lithium batteries. It looks like one poweres the control electronics and the other five give 15 volts to run the displays. There's a PIC12F629 and some pads for in-circuit programming. There's also a couple of 4094 8 bit shift registers. There are two E-Ink display panels, but they're not general-purpose dot matrix. They have a small number of pre-patterned regions that can be made black or white. If you disconnect a panel from the circuit, the panel remains in its last state.

It might be possible to open up a panel and put a different pattern underneath it (say, with a PCB). Might be fun.

The PCB could be useful even without the E-Ink displays. You could connect a bunch of LEDs to it and reprogram the PIC. Not bad for $5.99 plus tax.

I did later tear open one of the two display panels. You can remove the aluminum backing to reveal the connections printed in cunductive paint on the back of a pattern in conductive plastic. Trying to peel the conductive plastic away from the E-Ink active layer destroys the display, and releasing a tiny amount of E-Ink dust.

It does look like one could cut the display into small pieces to possibly make small separate indicators. You'd need to retain the edge that connects to the clear conductive plastic on the front of the display.

Picture of Esquire's e-Ink cover
westfw8 years ago
I bought one; it's simultaneously sorta neat and sorta disappointing. This is not the sort of eInk app that is supposed to (eventually) revolutionize publishing, but then again it IS something, and for whatever reason it IS in a pretty hackable form. Make Magazine's Blog seem to have the bet info I've found.

PIC--> level-converter (3 signals for shift register control?) --> 15V Shift register output ports.

The display from my magazine is sorta gray rather than black; perhaps the batteries are already weak...