Local text only chat room for under 100$: This may be a little insane

I am looking to create a local text only chatroom as a gallery installation for a sculpture class. In the most basic terms I want 4 text output displays and 4 text inputs to be connected through a cheap computer allowing people to carry on a simple conversation locally. As this makes absolutely no sense and has no practical applications it is difficult to find similar projects. Oh and because it just seemed too easy to wire some laptops together I am trying to do this for around 100$ 

There are Three basic problems I need to solve:

So far my best idea is to use a monochrome lcd such as this: 
and soup up/ replace the back-light and create and old school overhead projector. 

burner cell phone keyboards? cheap keyboards from goodwill? Alternatives? 

Make them work together:
some unholy union of breadboards arduino and raspberry pi

So basically this is barely possible if at all, and I am amateur at best in the hardware department (although I have a CS degree in a couple months) Any help from the seasoned veterans of this community would be greatly appreciated. (and I mean anything like if you have a favorite cheap keyboard or lcd that would be an immense help)


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lewisb424 years ago
My first thought is to see if you can find any of the old VAX terminals like the vt100 or vt320 for cheap. IIRC these are text-based monitor-and-keyboard terminals that send and receive over a regular serial line. Hook them directly to a computer via old-style serial ports or indirectly by interfacing them through an Arduino MEGA (which has 4 built-in serial ports but would probably require level-shifting).

As a bonus your installation would have this nice green-screen retro look (similar to the computers found in Fallout 3, if you ever played that game).
Here's a website for those terminals (meant to include it before): http://www.vt100.net/
mallen26 (author)  lewisb424 years ago
That is well worth looking into. Thanks
mallen26 (author)  mallen264 years ago
I can't find any online under a couple hundred books which is a shame.

Is there a way to hook together burner cell phones? physically or over some kind of local bluetooth network?
bluetooth might work. I know, generally-speaking, that BT provides a profile for serial communication. No clue if a single BT adapter on the "server" computer could handle multiple serial connections, though. Or if your burner phones would support that profile.

If the burner phones have wifi capability you could write a TCP/IP-based chat system where they communicate over a local wifi network.
nix host running irc with 4 serial ports + 4 dumb terminals
mallen26 (author) 4 years ago
I was thinking about actually cracking them open and wiring the keyboards to a controller and the controller to the screen... The basic idea here it to turn the phones into tin can and string radios. basically for my own amusement. This would require some specs on the screens and keypads but seems doable