Jeremy S. Cook  - 1 S1w2rSkxZKk3TeoZmIzYlQ - Powering a Golden 1970s-Era Prototype LED Display

Patrick Hickey enjoys collecting vintage indicators and , and has collected items from the 70s and 80s, mostly from well known manufacturers like Monsanto, HP, National Semiconductor and the like. He’s also added a few Russian “clones” and other parts made in Germany and Poland to his collection. His rarest item, however, is the HP 5082–7002 5×7 LED matrix , which was sold on eBay for scrap gold recovery.

Although the housing for the board is gold plated, the treasure here is that this part apparently never went into mass production. This prototype does have the date code of “051,” which he believes to be the 51st week of the year 1970. Unfortunately, even with this rudimentary information, he couldn’t find any datasheets or references to it, meaning the device would need to be reverse engineered to produce beautiful pixels.

The good news is that the hardware required to run such a display is much cheaper and smaller than what would have been available in 1970. Hickey simply created an Arduino Uno shield in which to seat the display, driving the LEDs in rows of five. The Arduino’s 0mA rating per pin would theoretically let him drive up to five LEDs in parallel at 8mA each, though he ended up pulsing the LEDs when in use. Results look great, and while Hickey could have perhaps made a few bucks melting it down for gold, what he came up with is much more amazing!

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