A couple of months ago, I posted my first blog with regard to Resurrecting 21-Segment Victorian Displays. As you may recall from that column, the idea of resurrecting these displays in the form of a modern tricolor LED incarnation originated with John Smout, who is one of the moderators of the Smartsockets Group, the other moderator being Chris Barron, who founded the group in 2006.

Now, John and Chris are focused on creating intelligent Smartsockets displays in which each character — which may be alpha and/or numeric and possibly punctuation — has its own PIC microcontroller. By comparison, I and my chums, Steve Manley and Paul Parry, typically like to use a single microcontroller to manage a bunch of displays.

In reality, Steve is the one who has been largely leading the effort for our sub-group — he’s designed the circuit boards and the 3D printed shells, and now he’s working on the low-level code. As part of this, Steve just posted this amazing video that walks us through his design process.


Steve starts with evaluating different types of LEDS, then moves on to capturing the schematic and creating the printed circuit board (PCB). Next, Steve describes the process of capturing the 3D shell using Fusion 360. Steve also discusses the process of selecting and applying a diffuser.

I have ten each of Steve’s boards and 3D printed shells here in my office. They are crying out to me to start experimenting with them, but I am 100% loaded workwise at the moment, so I’m restraining myself until I can devote the time they deserve. I also have some rather cunning ideas regarding the cabinet I’m going to build, but we will leave all that for future columns. In the meantime, are you as impressed with Steve’s video as am I?