Make Electronic Widget Frames From Old Computers




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"
MP3 Player
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.
Work continues



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    118 Discussions

    Can you reupload your video on another site as google video hosting is no longer online...

    Cool!, what program is that can i download it? use my files to boot the clock from cd

    It works with a Bootable cd .. follow the steps to boot the clock through cd 1. Download win 98 boot cd from (Win98_bootdisk.iso) 2. Download Ultraiso software (it is a trial version ) 3. Open Win98_bootdisk.iso with Ultraiso 4. In the ultraiso screen you will see all the win 98 boot files----(select all of them and delete them) 5. Dont leave the Ultraiso screen 6.Copy the files from my clock and paste them in the Ultraiso screen from where you deleted Win98 boot files previously 7. Press save in Ultraiso 8.Burn the cd 9.Insert the Cd in a new laptop and select CD as bootable devise and restart the laptop and boot from cd 10.when prompted select option 1. Start computer with cd-rom support 11.enter D:\ 12.enter D:\autoexec U will see the clock now Hope this works for everyone Dont forget tot use my files for the clock as i did some minor mods so it will work with CD

    Now all you have to do is program that Easy button to change slides ! using a parallel port it shouldnt be too hard

    Can i boot the "program" from an cd? First download then unpack it then move the folder to the cd? or what... i only have 1cd left and the laptop has no floppy

    And is it also possible to connect an usb-floppy-disk-drive to an digital photo frame and then run the programm on it??

    Is this program in English or in French??

    Ah Yes,It Worked. Is It that you Have 2+MB of files Compressed on the Floppy On a cabinet and that you extract it to a ram disk? Very clever:)

    yes, if I remember correctly, this why the trick I used... Pictures have a good compression rate. Did the sources helped ? keep me informed about you updates, for instance, if you translated them. There is a bug I know that I didn't correct. on the matrix clock, at midnight, the white square is not placed correctly... have fun

    Well You used .bmp They have the worst compression,probably a 600KB BMP Would be like a 1KB PNG. But then again you can't Display Png Images Without Massive Blobs of code to decode the image.

    hey just wondering where did you find such plexi glass. I have been trying to find one like that for quite some time now. Btw awesome job. but please do let em know.

    Can you PLEASE distribute the widget dashboard. It would be the best!

    that is awesome..... i'm not sure if anyone has mentioned this to you.... but it would be really cool if you could control it using touch screen.... In that case, i suppose you would need to use a tablet pc or something of the same sort..... Once again, great job...

    i love this instructable and was able to create a floppy bootdisk from vmware fusion in os x with a file from - but! the ping pong program keeps crashing the whole shebang... error message: "Illegal function call in module PINGPONG at address 07B7:0DC5" - you can recover by hitting any key to "return to system" but it kind of makes this useless. is there a way to get it to not load the pingpong module and just stay on the same one? i'll try to delete just that module and see if there's error checking or something that will keep it running without it...

    great job.... is there anyway to change the settings besides BIOS?