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!


Step 1: Materials and Tools


Frame wood (A): 4' of 1x4 (nominal dimensions) or similar sized board, or double that length of 3/4” x 1 5/8” stock

Eight wood screws (B): #8, 1 ¼” long

Three 8x32 dot matrix LED displays from Sure Electronics (C).  $12.90 ea. http://www.sureelectronics.net/goods.php?id=1118

DC power jack to match your adapter (E). Here is a standard  2.1mm one from Sparkfun for $1.25 http://www.sparkfun.com/products/119

SPDT (on-off-on) power switch (D). Digikey part#: 450-1527-ND

PS/2 port from an old computer motherboard (F) (ask a local computer shop and they will likely give you a defunct motherboard for free).

A 21” x 4” piece of 1/8” or 1/4” Lexan or Plexiglass (G) (try your local auto glass shop). I used this to make a clear back for the frame, so that you could still see the stuff going on inside. Wood paneling or plastic would work too.

2 AA battery holder (I)  http://www.sparkfun.com/products/551

4 AA battery holder in a long, flat configuration (H) http://www.sparkfun.com/products/9547

A few feet of 22 AWG  stranded wire (J).

Flexible breadboard jumpers (K). $6.00 at Solarbotics: http://www.solarbotics.com/products/21035/
You can use solid 22 AWG wire for this, but purpose-built breadboard jumpers are more flexible and much easier to use – well worth the expense.

Electrical tape or heat shrink tubing (L).

Mini self-adhesive breadboard (M): $3.95 at Sparkfun: http://www.sparkfun.com/products/8802 or $4.00 at MakerShed: http://www.makershed.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=MKKN1

Ardweeny microcontroller (N), from MakerShed ($9.95) http://www.makershed.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=MKSB012  or Solarbotics ($9.99)  http://www.solarbotics.com/products/kardw/

The Ardweeny is an Arduino-compatible microcontroller with a tiny footprint -- just the size of the Atmega chip itself. This (and its equally diminutive cost) make it a great choice for breadboard-based projects that need to fit into small places. Unlike the Arduino,  Ardweenies requires an external USB/serial programming adapter. They're pretty cheap too though: $15 from MakerShed ( http://www.makershed.com/FTDI_Friend_v1_0_p/mkad22.htm ) or Sparkfun ( http://www.sparkfun.com/products/9716 )

5v regulator (O). 7805 series regulators are cheap and plentiful ($0.29 from MakerShed: http://www.makershed.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=JM51263) but a low dropout model like the lm2937 will give you more run time on batteries, especially if you're using lower-voltage NiMH AAs ($1.50 at Solarbotics: http://www.solarbotics.com/products/lm2937/)

0.1 μF (104) ceramic capacitor (P)

10 μF electrolytic capacitor (Q)

Six small pan head screws (R) (for holding on the back cover)

9 – 12v AC/DC adaptor (S). The best place I've found to get adaptors is a Salvation Army thrift store. They usually have a large selection for about $1 a piece. If you haven't got a thrift store handy, there's one for $5.95 at Sparkfun (http://www.sparkfun.com/products/298) or $6.50 at MakerShed  (http://www.makershed.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=MKSF3)

Standard PS/2 computer keyboard (T), or USB keyboard with PS/2 adapter.

For reduced hassle and time input, a kit containing the collected materials to build this project can be purchased at the Maker Shed Store: http://www.makershed.com/PS_2_You_Parts_Kit_p/msps2u.htm

Hand saw or chop saw
Table saw (optional)
Measuring tape
Drill and bits
Soldering iron and solder
Pliers and cutters
Glue gun
FTDI serial programmer (available from sparkfun for $14.95 --  http://www.sparkfun.com/products/9716)
<p>s&iacute;, &iquest;cu&aacute;l es el error?</p>
HOLA GRACIAS POR RESPONDER ESTE ES EL ERROR <br><br>In file included from PS2You.ino:29:0:<br>C:\Program Files\Arduino\libraries\MatrixDisplay/font.h:4:35: error: variable 'myfont' must be const in order to be put into read-only section by means of '__attribute__((progmem))'<br> unsigned char PROGMEM myfont[92][5] = {<br> ^<br>In file included from PS2You.ino:30:0:<br>C:\Program Files\Arduino\libraries\PS2Keyboard/PS2Keyboard.h:61:17: error: conflicting declaration 'typedef uint8_t boolean'<br> typedef uint8_t boolean;<br> ^<br>In file included from C:\Program Files\Arduino\libraries\MatrixDisplay/MatrixDisplay.h:29:0,<br> from PS2You.ino:27:<br>C:\Program Files\Arduino\hardware\arduino\avr\cores\arduino/Arduino.h:117:14: error: 'boolean' has a previous declaration as 'typedef bool boolean'<br> typedef bool boolean;<br> ^<br>Error de compilaci&oacute;n<br>
<p>So line 4 of MatrixDisplay/font.h needs to be changed from:<br><br><br><br>unsigned char PROGMEM myfont[92][5] = {<br><br><br><br>to:<br><br><br><br>unsigned const char PROGMEM myfont[92][5] = {<br><br><br><br>The second error is in the Arduino.h core arduino library file, so <br>definitely a result of an IDE/compiler update. It looks like they changed how the boolean type is defined in arduino.h <br>as of January last year <br>(<a href="https://github.com/arduino/Arduino/commit/20ac20f6295b5bd923144ab6844564f13ddc8ca8" rel="nofollow">https://github.com/arduino/Arduino/commit/20ac20f6295b5bd923144ab6844564f13ddc8ca8</a>) Which breaks many libraries.<br><br><br><br>Try removing line 33 from <br>\PS2Keyboard\PS2Keyboard.h, which is:<br><br><br><br>typedef uint8_t boolean;<br><br><br><br>Another more certain solution would be to use an older (pre Jan 2015) <br>version of the Arduino IDE.</p><p>I hope this helps and let me know if the problem persists</p>
<div><pre>Hablas ingl&eacute;s?</pre></div>
<div><pre>Hablas ingl&eacute;s?</pre></div>
<p>Does this support keyboards for other languages, such as German?</p>
<p>Hi , when i compile the code , this error shown </p><p>( In file included from PS2You.ino:29:0:</p><p>C:\Users\MAN\Documents\Arduino\libraries\MatrixDisplay/font.h:4:35: error: variable 'myfont' must be const in order to be put into read-only section by means of '__attribute__((progmem))'</p><p> unsigned char PROGMEM myfont[92][5] = {</p><p> ^</p><p>Error compiling. ) !<br><br>what the reason of the error ?</p>
<p>I'll check on this</p>
<p>Any update? I'm currently having this issue!</p>
<p>Yes, I believe it's because of an incompatibility with the new Arduino IDE. We'll try to update the code to fix this.</p>
<p>I had the exact same issue :P </p>
<p>I know subject is nearly 2 years old - however is still so cool ;-)</p><p>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 https://www.instructables.com/id/USB-to-PS2-convertor/step1/The-Project/ and wonder if this will work? or will lead to damaging the arduino or/and LED panles. </p>
<p>Hey there, thanks for the interest! I don't know if that will work or not. I will look into it. </p>
<p>Earthling </p><p>Keep on making more projects this is cool. </p><p>Did you find out if the USB to PS2 refit to USB Keyboards would go into this device as you worked it out ... Nice project .... As soon as you let me know it's able to work with a USB keyboard I'll be able to make this ...... Thank you very much for your time and patience please &amp; thank you. </p>
<p>Really enjoyed this. Have you or do you know of any way to retrofit the cpu of an old ticker display (I have a very old Sunrise Systems EMX-2000/3 from 1996 which has a DB25 serial connector) with an arduino/raspberry pi unit instead? </p>
Hmm, I don't know about that. Thanks for the interest!<br>
<p>Hello, I wonder if this would work with an Arduino Uno, rather than the Ardweeny, and if with the UNO i would still need the FTDI breakout.</p>
<p>I believe it would, and no, you shouldn't need the FTDI if you're using an Uno.</p>
<p>Anyone had any luck using a RaspberryPi to drive this?</p>
How much would it cost to make a scrolling 1 x 3 foot sign then convert it to solar please?
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.
hello, great project.... <br>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, <br>Anabelle
Hi Anabelle, <br>I am having the same problem as you. Did you ever get yours working? What did you do?
What voltage does this use if I am using DC mains rather than battey
Around 9 - 12v
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?
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.
I have it all working perfect! Thanks for this great Instructable. <br> <br>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.
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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10zQRe3FpHw
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.
Terrific project Earthling! <br> <br>Do you have a scrolling version?
Thanks! <br> <br>What do you mean by a scrolling version?
awesome !!! <br>can u help me, how if i use standard led dot matrix 8x8 with 74hc595 shift register?? <br>can u send me the schematics and code to my email parjok21@gmailcom ? <br>thanks <br> <br>*sorry i'm an amateur in english
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: <br> <br>http://www.sureelectronics.net/gallery.php?id=1137&amp;img=6076 <br> <br>Greetz from the Netherlands :) <br> <br>Mark
Hi Markie, <br>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
Hi! i build this led message board and it works fine! <br>Thanks for that! <br>But i'd like to use it as a time/temp meter. <br>Do you maby have a code that displays that? <br>Thanks!
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 &quot;MatrixDisplay does not name a type&quot;, 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. <br> <br>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? <br> <br>Great project! <br> <br>
Thanks, I haven't tried it much outside but my guess is that it wouldn't be that great in a bright environment.
nice job, but is there a way to build the microcontroller that will work perfectly like the one? <br>i'm really impressed i must confess. good work once again <br> <br>please email me at maclee4real@yahoo.co.uk if there is a way to build a microcontroller <br>thanks
Here comes anoter one: ;) <br>Can one somehow integrate this with an ethernet-shield and send messages over internet to it? Fex via Txitter etc.? <br> <br>That shouldnt be to difficult, should it?
Hi maceide, <br>Thanks for your interest in the project and all the questions! <br> <br>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. <br> <br>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. <br> <br>Cheers and thanks -- glad you are having fun with the project.
Also I was wondering: <br>Is it possible to somehow make it display scandinavian characters? Like these ones: http://www.fiskeklubben.org/charcters/how-to.html <br>Mabye by replacing the bytes from those input on the keyboard with those letters? <br> <br>Thanks alot!
Hi, <br>Thanks alot for a great tutorial!!! :) <br>I have my version up and running now, and I enjoy it. <br>I was wondering about one little thing: <br>Is it possible to somehow make it not reset when one removes power to the Ardweeny? <br> <br>Best regards <br>-maceide
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. <br> <br>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!
hi...i come from indonesia. <br>i have arduino uno, can i use it to practice your project?so, please send me a schema to muhammadfaisal82@yahoo.com <br>thanks a lot
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.
hi, i really like this and wanna make one for my shop. <br>can you post microprocessor and PCB to Sri Lanka..? <br>thank you. <br>please reply me. <br> <br>sanjeawa1978@gmail.com <br>

About This Instructable




More by Earthling!:PS/2/You: Go-anywhere, LED digital message board Hand crank USB charger / LED headlamp Get free cellphones 
Add instructable to: