Introduction: Microreader Kit and Beyond

This kit is essentially a small microreader with an IC attached to it, which gives it data to read. The microreader displays text one letter at a time in a loop. Whenever you restart it, it picks a new phrase from its software at random.

The Microreader kit comes with pretty good, colorful instructions. For the sake of this instructable, an IC socket will be used to promote easy removal of the chip for programming. An IC socket is a bed the integrated circuit (IC) can sit in. This way you can take it out and program it or pet it if you want. You can get it from the Makezine Store.

You can use the MiniPOV as a programmer. No it's not a cheap trick to get more people buying them -- using the MiniPOV to program the Microreader is actually cheaper than buying a standard IC programmer. Alternatively, you can make your own programmer using this instructable.

Using an IC in this project makes it more difficult (annoying) to put together. I bought a cheap 20 pin IC from Radioshack, which I've heard isn't very good. It works fine for this project though. Also, you may consider an IC because this eliminates the possibly of accidentally destroying your IC.

This kit is great for soldering beginners. To learn the basics of soldering check out this great guide by noahw. Also, here's a good video tutorial from the MAKE blog.

Idealy, you can put this little reader on all sorts of stuff. Eventually this guide will illustrate how to temporarily attach this to a piece of clothing.

Step 1: What You Get and What You Need.

This kit is pretty simple.

What you get:
Battery Holder (with screw)

What you need:
Soldering iron with a fine tip
2 AA batteries
wire cutter

and if you want to program it using a programmer get a 20-pin IC socket.

The pictured holder isn't 100% necessary but it may help. I found it easier to just do this on a tabletop.

Step 2: Bend Some Pins and Attach Wires.

You'll need to bend the IC's (or socket's) pins all the way out, except for one. (See picture)

The power cables need to be attached to specific pins. Use the picture for reference.

Step 3: Bend More Pins

Ok here's the really annoying part.

You'll need to reverse two pins on the micro reader. use the manual and the pictures here to help you. Don't worry if at the end the IC gets installed a little crooked.

Step 4: Solder

Solder all the pins. This can be a little hard. When I finished one of the lights didn't work and it turns out that one pin didn't make contact. So just do this in two passes. First solder everything, then when it dries go back and double check -- seems logical enough ;)

Step 5: Insert Chip, Batteries.

Okay, so you're done.

Put the IC in aligning the gap drawn on the it to the gap in the IC socket. Put the batteries in the battery holder and you're set! Now it'll light up and display a random message. Yay!

Step 6: Programming

You might stay, "Dude, these canned phrases are pretty lame." If you built this with the IC socket and have a means of programming the IC (like the MiniPOV) you can easily change what the microreader displays.

You'll need two things:
(This is done in Windows, but there are equivalents for OSX and Linux)

WinAVR - This is the Windows version of Avrdude, which is available for OSX and Linux, just google it.
Microreader Sourcecode - This is the source code for the microreader.

If you've never messed with source code, don't worry. The developer of this thing made is really easy to change. It even has directions printed inside it! So, check them out.

Step 7: Compiling New Phrases

After you install WinAVR (or it's equivalents)

Extract the firmware zip file into c:\reader (or elsewhere)
Open up mrb.c in wordpad and scroll down till you start seeing:
const char String
You'll see stuff written in plain English. Now change any number of these phrases to whatever you want, and save!

Attach your IC programmer (I'll use the MiniPOV as an example) with the microreader chip. Go Start/Run and time "cmd" and a terminal will open. If you've never used this before, we aren't going to be doing anything spectacular here. "cd" navigates to a directory. And that's pretty much all you'll need to know.

cd c:\reader
Now you'll need to type three commands (one after the other) that prepare files for uploading into the chip.
make cleanmake allmake install
If you don't see any ugly ERROR messages, then it looks like your chip has the updated firmware. Pop it back into the microreader and enjoy!