Motorola Advisor Connected Device

The Motorola Advisor was good enough for Cereal Killer, Acid Burn, Crash Override and The Plaque.

Let's do something interesting with one.

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I was rewatching Hackers for the gazillionth time. When the crew received the HACK THE PLANET page on their Motorola Advisors, I looked up how much one of those babies are. Obviously you get them thrown at you for nothing.

Which made me order a handful to tear apart and see if we could do something interesting with one.

I didn't want it to just be regular POCSAG receiver (for receiving page calls) -- which it is. There are some interesting pages on building your own POCSAG transmitter, allowing you to send pages to your pagers.

But with a full display, D-pad, two selection buttons, a main button, one LED, piezo beeper and a vibration motor, this little baby ought to be able to become a sweet little device for something else.

What exactly? To be determined.


The Motorola Advisor is an iconic piece of wearable technology.

The original Advisor, released in 1990, was among the first pagers to provide alphanumeric messaging—up to four lines of text with up to 20 characters per line. It could be set to receive not only individual pages but also up to three additional group pages. It also included an alarm clock function. It was compact, measuring 18.5 by 55 by 81 millimeters, and ran on a single AA battery.

With a full four directional D-pad, select and escape keys, an additional power button, LED, piezo beeper, vibration motor and a not insignificantly sized display, one ought to be able to create a sweet portable device with it.

My initial thinking was to re-use all component, but replace the CPU with an ESP32 or something similar. 

Upon tear down, I am thinking let's see if we can design a PCB specifically for this project, and Tindie it, so anyone can build their own Motorola Advisor 2022 and use it for whatever they want.

PSA: This will be the first time I design a PCB. Any help will be appreciated.

  • PCBWay Sponsorship

    Daniel Karpantschof02/18/2022 at 10:04 0 comments

    Hey there!

    I was waylaid by covid and spent the past two weeks out of commission. Still can't taste coffee. Thankfully it still works.

    Liam from PCBWay got sight of the project, and reached out to me. They want to sponsor PCB-manufacturing, which is really lovely! That should make things easier. 

    Looking forward to work with them :)

  • Display

    Daniel Karpantschof02/04/2022 at 10:22 0 comments

    The SSD1306 16 x 2 LCD fits so well, but doesn't offer much in terms of functionality. Any ideas? 

  • 3.5mm Audio Jack

    Daniel Karpantschof02/01/2022 at 12:41 0 comments

    I'm considering adding a 3.5mm audio jack to the build.

    While it would require modification of the Advisor chassis (which I really don't want to), it could add some neat features and functions, using the onboard DAC, such as using the device as Spotify/Google Music walkman.

    Just a thought.

  • Controller, Language, Display and Power

    Daniel Karpantschof01/31/2022 at 23:02 0 comments

    Controller and Language

    I've decided to go with a PyBoard Series-D. Micropython seemed like a good language for this project and wanting to support the Micropython project, I went with an original PyBoard. 


    Upon tearing down the Advisor, I had hoped, and successfully so, to discover which LCD is being used, and ideally use the same one.

    Alas, the DUREL 51052-E01 display is impossible to find support and tech specs for (it's 30 years old... not surprised).

    I have ordered a handful of displays that seemingly fit both specs and dimensions, and will do some testing. 

    There are some dimensions that are annoying, but going with I2C for still gives us a good variety to select from.


    The chassis is designed for a single AAA battery. I would love to keep that form factor for power, but 1v5 doesn't give us a lot to work with. Even with a DC-DC step up converter, a single AAA traditionally provide is with ~1000 mAh. I'll probably end up with lithium based battery pack instead, but let's see what we can do. 

  • Teardown

    Daniel Karpantschof01/31/2022 at 22:43 0 comments

    Opening the Advisor is super easy. It is built super robust, but also very easy to service.

    In the left column you'll find the front, including the LCD display (DUREL 65R62890A02 5277 // 51052-E01).

    In the right column, from the top, you'll find the backplate, with vibration motor and to spring connections, the comms board with POCSAG decoder, and at the bottom the mainboard and AAA battery holder.

    PCB Front

    The front of the main PCB holds the pads for the membrane buttons. From left to right:

    1. Green Selection Key
    2. Red Escape Key
    3. D-Pad Left
    4. D-Pad Up
    5. D-Pad Down
    6. D-Pad Right

    In the upper right corner you will find a cutout of the PCB to hold a small momentary switch for the main function key/power key

    PCB Back

    Notice: I've removed most of the ICs on the board.

    The back holds the battery on the left. The white header in the middle, towards the right, is for the comms board.

    There is a backup battery in the upper right corner, and just south of that, you will find the two solder pads for the piezo beeper (removed). Southeast of that is the onboard red LED and immediately south of that the cutout and two pads for the power button. West of that are two large pads for the connection to the vibration motor.

    A more in-depth teardown can be found here: as well as how to reprogram the POCSAG board -- if that's your jam

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Tachyon wrote 02/20/2022 at 06:54 point

My first thought was to turn it into a two-way Meshtastic communicator. Fitting in an ESP32 device with LoRaWAN should be easy. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

David Timm wrote 02/18/2022 at 15:24 point


I like the idea of using this in a very traditional way: alarms, call/text notifications, etc. Basically the killer functions of a pricey smartwatch. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Daniel Karpantschof wrote 02/21/2022 at 00:23 point

That was my initial idea too. Was actually looking into what it would require to have it mimic a smart watch. Turns out getting notifications off a phone, relayed to a device is trickier than what might think. Unless you have an app for the phone developed. Creates a whole new hell to deal with. Unless someone has that particular expertise? 

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phrogjlf wrote 02/16/2022 at 21:00 point

I have no experience useful to the project, but I have ab idea...

As a diabetic, I have Bluetooth linked sensors, so I can avoid jabs to test my blood glucose.  There's also an app for cell-phones.

Perhaps a belt-worn pager could receive and display the alerts for High/Low Blood Glucose warnings and timer alerts to check blood-glucose readings?  I have a 'reader', but it has no belt clic.

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Carlos Duarte Do Nascimento (Chester) wrote 02/16/2022 at 17:27 point

Don't have experience with PCB design/production, but I wonder if you might have an easier time driving the display/reading the buttons directly from the microcontroller... timing may be an issue though... anyway, nice idea and thanks for sharing.

  Are you sure? yes | no

deswong wrote 02/09/2022 at 05:33 point

I think I have one of these around somewhere and will have to resurrect it. 

E-ink displays could be used and would look quite neat - such as the WaveShare 18915 which does red/black/white with a much higher resolution of 296x152.

This would then allow low power usage, maybe tied in with bluetooth to an app on a phone, having something similar to a pager and have messages shown on the screen, and updated when the phone comes in range of the pager, etc. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Daniel Karpantschof wrote 01/31/2022 at 23:08 point

Anyone who want to join me on this project, please do let me know. Especially if you have experience in Micropython and/or PCB design.

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Zachary Priddy wrote 09/27/2022 at 19:22 point

this is something I’m also working on. I have experience designing pcbs and would love to help out. I got to basically the same stage before finding this. I am trying to do the same display with a serial interface connected to an arduino with BLE and WiFi. I was thinking a small button interface board to go along the bottom of the pager.. maybe build an arduino into that board and make it so the screen would also attach to it.. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

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