Introduction: Make Electronic Widget Frames From Old Computers
After transforming an old laptop into an MP3 player, I show you how to turn a very (very very) old laptop into a digital clock with multiple "skins"
The end of the project shows you what you can do with a more recent laptop with a real graphic OS. I am curently working in improving the interface on this laptop.
This is a nice way to recycle old hardware you can found or buy for cheap.
Step 1: Find the Laptop
For this project, I used a very old 286 (80MHz) with a monochrome screen. This is a Compaq LTE 286. The passive matrix screen can only display gray levels...
Remove the screen. I recommend you to keep the plastic enclosure and cut the edge so that you can glue the back and the laptop with the back of the screen without damaging the LCD.
So find a way to reverse the LCD by cutting the screen hinge.
Step 2: Prepare the Frame
Find a Plexiglas or acrylic plate (I found it in a street of NYC...).
Cut a rectangular hole in it with an electric saw or whatever you want, but I suppose it will be longer with a Swiss knife...
Chose your plexi plate carefully. My plate was too thick. When I tried to go too fast, the saw blade made the plexi melt and was sometime traped into molten plastic. I had to go very slowly, which took forever... Finding a thiner plate cold help.
Paint the back and brush the front face to make a cool effect.
You can add some LED lightings for an even cooler like on the picture frame, but I didn't do that, too complex for me.
Step 3: The Software
I use a boot floppy disk to run the computer, because it is the only way to boot the laptop that has no more hard drive. I wrote a small program in QBasic to animate the clock and that starts at boot time.
You can see the result here
To use the provided file, you need to create a boot disk with the format wizard of your floppy drive, remove every file and replace them with the files contained in the zip. Then restart your computer. Check for virus first, you use this software at your own risk. There will be no problem, but I recommend you only use this on a computer with no important files. I will not be responsible for problem you could have with this software. This is for non commercial use only. Feel free to contact me for feedback...
I finally found the sources, on my previous computer... enjoy
Step 4: Do the Same for Pictures and Videos
You can do the same with video and pictures. I transform a more recent and more powerful laptop that runs windows 98 and a slideshow of picture at startup using exactly the same method and material. The hardware is a pentium at 80 or 100MHz with a color display.
The same computer can smoothly run color videos, uncompressed and without sound.
The following video is from this laptop but the idea is the same as in the instructions and it works the same way to built it. The comptuer is simply a little bit more powerful.
Step 5: Transform Your Old Laptop Into a Widget Dashboards
I am also working on a small Flash startup screen that can display interesting information such as time, date, pictures, number of unread mails and Google Reader RSS news and weather...For this project, I use a laptop with a harddrive and windows 98 installed on it. This provides at least with easy internet and network configuration, graphical interface... I play a small interface designed with Flash under a version of Media Player Classic compatible with the windows version and run it in full screen to make it clean. A good idea in this case is to remove the harddrive and replace it by a flashdrive, easily available now. This could reduce the noise a lot.
I am updating it but it's on the right track.
Step 6: Dashboard New Version
This is a new version of the widgets dashboard, inspired by... you name it... I manage to make the flash animation a standalone application that can run at statup, in fullscreen. It could even replace the explorer process under win98.