PS/2/You: Go-anywhere, LED digital message board

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Picture of PS/2/You: Go-anywhere, LED digital message board
Combine three inexpensive LED matrix display panels, an Ardweeny microcontroller and a standard PS/2 computer keyboard into your own go-anywhere, instantly updatable 768-pixel digital message board.

The code can hold up to six lines of text with a maximum of 100 characters each. Pressing a key on the keyboard gets you to input mode. Use the up and down arrow keys to select which line to edit. ENTER puts the system back into output mode. When in output mode, each line of text will display for 1 second (you can set this in the sketch), or if the line is longer than 16 characters, it will scroll across the display before moving onto the next line.

Send some text messages:
The uses for this contraption are many. Plug the keyboard in and enjoy putting your wittiest “wiseclacks” on it in the safety of your home, shop, or office, or use the battery option to take it into the wide world. We like to leave the keyboard accessible so that passers by can add a riposte or two to the dialogue, but if monologue is more your thing you can always take it elsewhere. Here's another idea: drill a broomstick-sized hole in the bottom of the frame and add a removable handle so you can wander the streets digitally promoting your geekified political leanings.  Score keeping at sports events, birthday greetings, advertising your wares at a farmers market, beaming cryptic messages to your neighbours across the street – the possibilities are endless!

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zajactom1 month ago

I know subject is nearly 2 years old - however is still so cool ;-)

I wonder if will be OK to use USB instead of PS2. I do not have PS2 keyboard USB keyboards are more popular now then PS2. I found this instructable and wonder if this will work? or will lead to damaging the arduino or/and LED panles.

Earthling! (author)  zajactom1 month ago

Hey there, thanks for the interest! I don't know if that will work or not. I will look into it.

bonedoggie7 months ago

Anyone had any luck using a RaspberryPi to drive this?

profort1 year ago
How much would it cost to make a scrolling 1 x 3 foot sign then convert it to solar please?
Earthling! (author)  profort1 year ago
Profort: Good question -- I really don't know. I haven't investigated the pricing on panels that size, but I'm sure they exist. Let me know how it turns out.
ritzanab1 year ago
hello, great project....
do you think that my LEDs do not work, for this is the second time I have attempted to do this project and everything is in the right places and I am getting power in the ardweeny. The only thing that is not working is my LEDs they have yet to turn on. Thank you,
Hi Anabelle,
I am having the same problem as you. Did you ever get yours working? What did you do?
maboy1 year ago
What's the total cost?
Earthling! (author)  maboy1 year ago
That depends on how much of the supplies you have or can scrounge. If you have to buy all the stuff I'd say somewhere around 60 bucks. I hope this helps!
What voltage does this use if I am using DC mains rather than battey
Earthling! (author)  mwilkinson91 year ago
Around 9 - 12v
nyo tom1 year ago
I have a problem getting my keyboard to work. It doesn't send what I write to the display and the welcome screen just stays and says Hello, Welcome and start typing. Any suggestions?
pedro1471 year ago
Hi Earhling!, nice job there very impressive. I only have one Sure 3208 display at this stage and was wondering if the ps2 keyboard input would work with only one display (with any necessary software modifications) as opposed to the three used in this project. I would just like to make sure I can get it up and running before I commit to spending A$32 for two more displays. Thanks Pedro.
Edward_1 year ago
I have it all working perfect! Thanks for this great Instructable.

By the way, does your brother have code for a version of this that will accept SMS messages from a GSM/GPRS modem? That would be a Great followup project.
Edward_1 year ago
You've seen a message board where the text moves from right to left, and repeats, scrolling may not be the correct term. Its usually a longer message than the display is wide. Similar to this:
Earthling! (author)  Edward_1 year ago
Ah yes, I see what you mean. Scrolling is the right word and in fact the PS/2/You display does exactly that by default.
Edward_1 year ago
Terrific project Earthling!

Do you have a scrolling version?
Earthling! (author)  Edward_1 year ago

What do you mean by a scrolling version?
parjok1 year ago
awesome !!!
can u help me, how if i use standard led dot matrix 8x8 with 74hc595 shift register??
can u send me the schematics and code to my email parjok21@gmailcom ?

*sorry i'm an amateur in english
markie2 years ago
Very nice instructable!! Im building this for a friend of mine, but i want to know if its possible to use these led matrix boards:

Greetz from the Netherlands :)

Earthling! (author)  markie1 year ago
Hi Markie,
Sorry for the slow response. I asked my brother who did the code for this project and he said those boards probably wouldn't work without modification to the code. Are you having trouble finding the other ones? Good luck, E
ingkiller1 year ago
Hi! i build this led message board and it works fine!
Thanks for that!
But i'd like to use it as a time/temp meter.
Do you maby have a code that displays that?
JesusB2 years ago
Hi! I just followed your instructable and very detailed very nice but I have a problem! when trying to upload the code it gives me this error "MatrixDisplay does not name a type", I already built it and I'm reallynew to arduinos, please help me!
Thank you very much, I liked it. Today I have come diaplay from sure and start to ride today.

Thanks, I'll tell you
How would this work in a bright light environment. We are thinking of incorporating this into a swimming pool environment (as a display for what races are getting ready) and wonder how this would show during daylight hours?

Great project!

Earthling! (author)  iowafalconer2 years ago
Thanks, I haven't tried it much outside but my guess is that it wouldn't be that great in a bright environment.
maclee4real2 years ago
nice job, but is there a way to build the microcontroller that will work perfectly like the one?
i'm really impressed i must confess. good work once again

please email me at if there is a way to build a microcontroller
maceide2 years ago
Here comes anoter one: ;)
Can one somehow integrate this with an ethernet-shield and send messages over internet to it? Fex via Txitter etc.?

That shouldnt be to difficult, should it?
Earthling! (author)  maceide2 years ago
Hi maceide,
Thanks for your interest in the project and all the questions!

First one first: it should be fairly easy to modify the code so that it stores the messages until the next time the system is turned on. This would be nice, and is something we have talked about doing. I can let you know if we get it into the main code.

As for the other two questions, they also should be do-able. I'll ask my brother who did most of the code for me about them and we'll see what we can do. It would be good to do an update for the system and these would be fun things to include.

Cheers and thanks -- glad you are having fun with the project.
maceide2 years ago
Also I was wondering:
Is it possible to somehow make it display scandinavian characters? Like these ones:
Mabye by replacing the bytes from those input on the keyboard with those letters?

Thanks alot!
maceide2 years ago
Thanks alot for a great tutorial!!! :)
I have my version up and running now, and I enjoy it.
I was wondering about one little thing:
Is it possible to somehow make it not reset when one removes power to the Ardweeny?

Best regards
Hello, I come from Hong Kong. I'm impressed by this great project and tried to build this with a single matrix board and Arduino Duemilanove board but failed.

Cap lock light of KB can be ON/OFF, but no display on matrix. Would you please teach me how to build up? Is it required to amend the program? Thanks a lot!
faisolhanif2 years ago
hi...i come from indonesia.
i have arduino uno, can i use it to practice your project?so, please send me a schema to
thanks a lot
Earthling! (author)  faisolhanif2 years ago
Yes as long as everything fits inside the box, it should work with any Arduino compatible micro-controller, including of course the UNO. The schematic should be just the same as long as everything is wired up to the same / equivalent pins on the chip.
sanju30032 years ago
hi, i really like this and wanna make one for my shop.
can you post microprocessor and PCB to Sri Lanka..?
thank you.
please reply me.
kiven_19852 years ago
that is amaizing project
please don't stop make anator one
good project..thanks
I'm having some problems with this build.

Basically, whatever LED board I have set as #1 doesn't show any data, however 2 and 3 work just fine. I can change the position of 2,3 around, or even double them, however I cannot get #1 to work.
I tried reuploading the code several times, however this seems to have no effect.
I don't think any of the LED units are bad, since all of them work on the 2 or 3 position setting.

Any ideas?
Earthling! (author)  disturbed10352 years ago
Hi there,
I would suspect the problem might be with the CS1 wire from your Ardweeny to the display ribbon. I have just updated the documentation on that step of the wiring because it has always been a bit confusing. There is now a modified schematic which is much easier to see and it shows the CS number along with the display ribbon number and Ardweeny pin. CS1 is is the third wire on the ribbon cable and it should go into D4 on the Ardweeny. Let me know how this works out.
JJP_2 years ago
Just wondering if you have wired the voltage supply wires (red and black) that come with the 8x32 dot matrix displays from Sure?
It seems to work without them (I suppose the ribbon cables supply enough current). They must be optional if you want to use a separate power supply.
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