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Tiny Wearable 8-bit VT100 Console

Arduino Uno-powered terminal emulator on a tiny 1"x1" TFT screen

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To enter command-line tasks on Mac/Linux/Windows we use a text console window. But back in the old days there was no window display at all, and the text console was actually a dedicated box with a CRT screen that would connect to the main computer over the wire - a terminal or TTY.

I decided to build one of those using modern parts like the Arduino and make it as tiny as I can: Would be cool to build a wearable wrist device for badass cyberpunk hackers!

There are several AVR-based terminal emulator projects, but I found difficulty adapting them to my display, a one-inch-square TFT based on the ILI9163C chipset. So I decided to hack together my own VT100 command parser and renderer, with intention to keep the code tidy, clear and extensible. I am also experimenting with fun techniques like sub-pixel rendering to show more text on screen: currently, the 128 pixel width manages to display up to 64 characters across (2 pixels per character!).

The TinTTY hardware setup is simple:

  • Arduino Uno
  • TFT screen (1in x 1in ILI9163C), connected via SPI
  • USB Host Shield, connected via SPI
  • cheap mini 2.4GHz wireless USB keyboard

The input device, by its nature, cannot be too miniature, otherwise it becomes too annoying to type! However, everything else should basically fit onto some sort of wearable wristband or inside a cute tin container. The separate wireless keyboard helps keep the hardware tidy and self-contained.

Stretch goals:

  • explore different keyboard connection approaches
  • Lego enclosure?
  • wearable form factor?
  • glasses mount?

All the code is open source, and I plan to keep the core reusable parser and display portions separate and reusable for different hardware/input combinations.

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Bartosz wrote 09/26/2017 at 12:16 point

Do You remember z88?

I would like:

1. dedicated keyboard , similar basic on zx spectrum, instruction : ls, awk, ruby perl etc.

2. 80x5 lines and graphics (similar z88)

  Are you sure? yes | no

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