budget sunlight readable ground control station

This video shows the result of modifying a T41 Thinkpad to give a full colour sunlight readable display:


Full credit for both the idea and the modification should go to Nic Schraudolph from the Canberra MakeHackVoid group. I just supplied the old thinkpad to modify when Nic suggested that this would be a good way to get a sunlight readable GCS for the CanberraUAV project. Thanks Nic!

There are some more photos of Nic modifying the laptop here:





Views: 2454

Comment by Brian on April 14, 2011 at 9:13pm

Nice post Andrew.  FYI, I made a slight adjustment to the post prior to publishing.  When the Image or Video is first item in the post it can automatically go to the front page for us all to enjoy.  I moved the description line to below the video now it's on the front page. 

Great Mod!

Comment by Andrew Tridgell on April 14, 2011 at 9:14pm

ok, thanks Brian, I'll make sure I get that right for future posts


Comment by Max on April 14, 2011 at 11:38pm
Very nice :) so this should work with any laptop ??

Comment by Andrew Tridgell on April 14, 2011 at 11:50pm

It should work with a wide variety of laptops. The main issue will be whether there is a lot of vital electronics behind the LCD which may be damaged by removing the back, or which will obscure the display.

The ideal laptop for this hack would have the ribbon cable connecting to the LCD at the bottom instead of the top. The T41 which we modified connects the ribbon cable to the top, which means you end up with the shadow of the cable on the display. We have thought about rotating the panel 180 degrees and shortening the cable, then using xrandr to flip the display back up the right way in software. That would get rid of the shadow.

Even better would be to find a model of laptop which is:

 - old enough to be cheap on ebay

 - new enough to be useful

 - which has a bottom connecting LCD

 - and which has very little electronics behind the panel

We chose the T41 only because I happened to have one which had a dead backlight (tt was my mums old laptop).

If someone does find a laptop which is a better choice then do please let me know. We're thinking of modifying several laptops for the CanberraUAV team in this way, and it would be great to find one which gives a really ideal result.

Also note that if you make this change, then to use the laptop inside you need to put a lamp behind it. I just use a little desk lamp. Alternatively you could rig up a LED backlight for inside use, and even have a little blind that you pull to convert it between inside and outside use. It just depends how much time you want to put into the hack.



Comment by Max Levine on April 15, 2011 at 3:25am

Very nice one, what is battery time now ? :) 

You can use one of those photo reflectors.  


Comment by Paul Mather on April 15, 2011 at 4:21pm
I have a few damaged Toshiba Tecra's I'm willing to sacrafice!
Comment by Paul Mather on April 15, 2011 at 6:46pm

Well, I spent about 30 minutes taking my broken terca apart. It is probably very similar to the Thinkpad you disassembled. No rocket science involved. Once I got it apart, I removed all of the layers of backing material (maybe 4 layers) plus the plastic for the backlight. I also took off the "inverter?" that powers the bulb for the backlight. Everything was working great. What once was a worthless laptop now had real potential!


 I needed to re-route the Wifi wires that were on the lid of the latop and that was no problem. Then I screwed the metal fram back together around the LCD. I left the bottom piece off and actually threw it away. Once I started testing I realizred the LCD needed to be moved up about 1/8 inch so I could see the entire start button. On my Tecra, there was absolutely nothing blocking the view on the bottom or sides. The top has about 2 inches of PCB board and a wire that runs down the back just like yours. My hope was to bend this away from the LCD and get more reflected light in there.


So I should have stopped there. Realized the 1/8" offset isn't the end of the world... but I didn't. I spent another 45 minutes trying to get the metal track where the bulb goes under the LCD again... After a bunch of touching the LCD directly, I realized there was a funny looking river that had formed near the edge of my screen. My hopes were that I had merely flipped the charge in some of the cells...but nope. After applying power, I had broken the LCD and had ruined the lower 1/2 of the screen.


Oh well. I guess if I had it to do over again I would not have handled the LCD itself nearly as much. I also question how well the whole thing would travel. I think I'd leave the clear plastic in place to give the LCD more support in the frame. I didn't cut a hole in the lid as my thought was just to leave it off... but again. The LCD is very fragile and even twisting it wrong would probably destroy it.

Comment by Andrew Tridgell on April 15, 2011 at 7:02pm

I'm sorry to hear it didn't work out for your Tecra!

I think leaving the case in place and cutting a hole is definitely the better way to go. It gives it some strength and protection while travelling. We also left the clear plastic on the back of the LCD in place. It is probably better to just drag the menu bar to whichever side of the screen is clearest rather than trying to make the bottom edge perfect. For me the right hand edge was the best choice for the menus.

Are you going to have a go with another Tecra?

Comment by Jack Crossfire on April 15, 2011 at 7:27pm

You could just grow your own shade.



Comment by Paul Mather on April 15, 2011 at 8:54pm
Andrew, I do have another one here on the box just waiting to be sacrificed. I'll see if the mood catches me this weekend. How did you cut the hole?


You need to be a member of DIY Drones to add comments!

Join DIY Drones


Season Two of the Trust Time Trial (T3) Contest 
A list of all T3 contests is here. The current round, the Vertical Horizontal one, is here

© 2020   Created by Chris Anderson.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service