External VFD (vacuum flourescent display) to USB

Posted by: larry98765

External VFD (vacuum flourescent display) to USB - 09/30/05 02:38 PM

Hi All,

I'm looking to hook a VFD (vacuum flourescent display) externally to a Mac USB port.

I've done some checking around and the best route I've been able to come up with is this model from Matrix Orbital:

VK202-24-USB display

Of course, the drivers for that are PC only, but they recommend a driver on this page:

http://www.ftdichip.com/Drivers/FT2232CDrivers.htm

Anyone have any experience or insights into this hardware / driver combo? Once connected, can I use UNIX commands to start sending text to the display? Any "Hello World" tutorials out there that can help me get started?

Thanks in advance for any advice,

L

Post edited by: larry98765, at: 2005/09/30 21:39
Posted by: whitlock

Re:External VFD (vacuum flourescent display) to US - 09/30/05 02:46 PM

That is a good question. I looked over their site and they don't have any programming examples, just the raw "this is what this is" programming stuff. Have you tried contacting their support for assistance, or a "Hello World" example to work from?
Posted by: larry98765

Re:External VFD (vacuum flourescent display) to US - 09/30/05 03:50 PM

Thanks Whitlock,

Yes, I sent them a message. I will post here any insight I gain if they respond.
Posted by: Draconis

Re:External VFD (vacuum flourescent display) to US - 09/30/05 05:35 PM

This guy is working on one. Although I doubt it will be done this year.
Linktacular
Posted by: larry98765

Re:External VFD (vacuum flourescent display) to US - 10/01/05 06:17 AM

Yes, I had come across that page in my searches.

But I'm somewhat less wiring-savvy than that would require.

Also, I'm looking for VFD, not LCD.

But thanks for the post.
Posted by: burtman

Re:External VFD (vacuum flourescent display) to US - 10/01/05 08:23 AM

The http://www.ftdichip.com/Drivers/FT2232CDrivers.htm%3Cbr%20/%3E driver they have reccomended appear to be a USB to serial device driver, after reading through the PDF installation file on that site its bascially a way of adding a serial port to a Mac. I'm guesssing that the matrix orbital uses a similair chipset as the USB to serial adapter from that page and once installed you would have a standard serial interface to your VFD display. However at that point I think you would still have to create somthing to output data to the display over your newly created serial port.
I'm sure its possible, but its not going to be easy.

this is a link to apples example code, for controlling a serial port, its a basic command line utility, but it may give you some idea as to what you might need to to do.
http://developer.apple.com/samplecode/SerialPortSample/SerialPortSample.html

Must admit it looks past my current skill level!
Posted by: burtman

Re:External VFD (vacuum flourescent display) to US - 10/01/05 08:29 AM

Just found http://www.wildrice.com/BlueCabbie/ which may be of some help, a guy built a carMac using iTunes and a matrix orbital display, he also has the source for his control system availble as an Xcode project.

He credits http://www.harmless.de/cocoa.html#serialport this page for the help with the serial programming.
Posted by: whitlock

Re:External VFD (vacuum flourescent display) to US - 10/01/05 09:41 AM

Wow, great find burtman!
Posted by: larry98765

Re:External VFD (vacuum flourescent display) to US - 10/01/05 12:39 PM

Yes! Great find! Thanks!

This definitely puts me on the right track -- in fact, I have that USB --> Serial adapter in a box somewhere from when I had an old Palm handheld I needed to hook up.

I will study this BlueCabbie info with great interest.

Thanks again!

-- EDIT --

OK. I'm confused. Matrix Orbital makes USB (as opposed to serial) displays, i.e.:

http://www.matrixorbital.com/product_info.php?pName=vk20224usb&cName=lcd-character-vfds

So hooking it up won't be a problem. But in the pdf for that product, it says the following:

Quote:
A standard B type USB header is provided on the display for USB communication. The USB cable provides power and data to the display. There are two ways of communicating to the display. Under Windows, the user will have direct access to the display drivers or create a virtual COM Port (VCP). With the VCP, a new COM Port gets created in Windows. Under the control panel the user can set all the options for the USB device, including speed. Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, and Windows XP drivers have been tested. VCP drivers are also available for Apple OS-X, OS-8, and OS-9. Linux drivers are available as well, but have not been tested by us, nor will Matrix Orbital be able to provide any support for them.
For more driver information please visit http://www.FTDIchip.com


So once I hook it up, sending data becomes my problem. Any ideas?

Post edited by: larry98765, at: 2005/10/01 19:48
Posted by: burtman

Re:External VFD (vacuum flourescent display) to US - 10/02/05 12:51 AM

Basically however your display is connected to your mac either directly via USB or via a usb to serial convertor once you have installed the drivers your going to get an serial communictions port availble to send the data you want displayed through. That seems to be the way that most of these VFD or LCD screens work, whatever operating system you are using.

Your options as I can see them are:
Use the blueCabbie project and be content with the itunes information.
Take the source to the BlueCabbie project and adjust it to your needs. (ie learn objective c)
Start from scratch using the Apple tutorial and create your own interface. (again learn objective c)

Keep searching for somone else who has done the hard work allready.
Posted by: larry98765

Re:External VFD (vacuum flourescent display) to US - 10/03/05 04:28 AM

Will do burtman.

I'm digging into the Cocoa tutorials and BlueCabbie site as we speak.

In the meantime, if anyone knows of a way to use UNIX to direct output to an external USB VFD or LCD display, that would be ideal.

Thanks all for your help on this.

Ciao.
Posted by: burtman

External VFD (vacuum flourescent display) to USB - 07/11/06 03:58 PM

If anybody is still interested in this, I thought that I would mention that I have an USB Mx2 VFD display working on my G3 400 B&W, though under linux using LCDproc.
Posted by: larry98765

Re: External VFD (vacuum flourescent display) to USB - 09/23/06 02:43 PM

Hi Burtman,
I'm still very much interested in this. How did you go about it? The more details, the better.
Thanks
Posted by: burtman

Re: External VFD (vacuum flourescent display) to USB - 11/25/06 08:42 AM

The short version is I installed Gentoo Linux on my G3 and then installed LCDproc. The long version is that it takes bloody ages to compile stuff on my old Mac!
Posted by: Waragainstsleep

Re: External VFD (vacuum flourescent display) to USB - 11/25/06 01:05 PM

Yeah, compiling stuff takes ages. Bummer.
Posted by: TCPMeta

Re: External VFD (vacuum flourescent display) to USB - 11/29/06 05:08 AM

I had a VFD display on my PC once but after I wired it up and tryed it in winamp it blew. Come to find out it was a cheapo that I over paid for off of ebay that blow out easily. A friend of mine has a 2x20 VFD dsplay on his system. I'll ask what model he has. I know the model he uses come in diffrent text columes and sizes.