Programming: Arduino

Like many, I bought an Arduino and some electronic components and had a tinker building a number of little projects on a breakout board. I bought a 16x2 LCD screen, a Bluetooth module, an RFID reader and had some fun building simple projects. I couldn't see myself building an electronic keypad for my back door or an RFID enabled alarm so what next? My interest was the programming side of the device rather than the design and construction of digital circuits - I wanted to see what could be done with the simple Arduino architecture and minimal, available memory.

SmartGPU2 Board

Ebay is full of simple LCD and TFT LCD screens that were compatible with the Arduino. These came in many sizes from Arduino's own 1.77" 160 x 128 pixel screen, numerous 2.4" 240 x 320 versions from various manufacturers - which claim to use the common TFT LCD library written by Henning Karlsen - through to 4" and 5" versions that boast resolutions up to 800 * 480 pixels. I initially bought a cheap 2.4" screen but found that it didn't come with libraries and when I finally got them from the supplier they were older and I had to modify them to suit the newer Arduino environment. Furthermore, the screen quality was poor with bands of light and dark across image. Finally, the screen could only accept videos stored in some crazy, proprietary format that I was unable to reproduce on my Mac. Admittedly, they did provide a Windows based conversion tool from AVI to their format but I had lost interest at this stage. A quick PayPal claim later and I was looking for a new screen ..

After a bit of searching I found the SmartGPU2. What I liked about it was that the manufacturer wrote and maintained the libraries that go with it - if anything did not work, I had one person to direct my questions and complaints to. As the device has its own graphics processor to handle all of the rendering duties and all functions are driven by simple serial communication , the libraries that come with the device for the Arduino are extremely light-weight. This device is not cheap though ($124) but I was sold !


I have a number of solderless breadboards which are great for knocking up quick prototypes but are not appropriate for components that require user interaction such as a touch screen or joystick. I made this very simple prototype board from a scrap of timber and some 3mm PCB spacers.

Since making this, I have bought a small accelerometer and attached this to the board and brought the jumper leads underneath the TFT screen and up along side the analogue inputs of the Arduino. There are now a lot more wires dangling around and I have stopped them from shorting out the board by attaching them to the PBCB stands and other wires using some bread ties.


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