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I have been thinking for a while about doing a version of the Lap Display for C7042. However there are a number of problems.

1) The current design does not have enough digits, so a redesign is needed.
2) There are 4 driver chips, Max7219, and a the new design would need 6 or even 7 of them. The price has steadily gone up over the years and is now £6.50 each even in 100 off quantities.
3) Nice as the Lap Display is, it is not very flexible in what it can display.

So with the objective of having a stand alone, no PC, no messing about, you just plug and play solution to a more legible Lap Display for C7042. I came up with the idea of an interface driving a VGA Monitor. Now I suspect most people have a VGA monitor lying around and if not then a second hand one on eBay can be had for around £20.

So to wet your appetite here is a quick video of what it looks like in operation. Colours are quite muted as it's recorded off the screen, but if you run it full screen it will give you a good idea what the display will be like.


So very early days, this is a Stage 1 demonstration with the monitor just replicating what is sent to the C7042 Display.

Stage 2 will be to do some manipulation of the data to replicate one of my favourite features of the C7030 Lap Display with it in Practice Mode showing a number of laps and the best lap for the cars.

Manipulation is not straightforward as data is sent to the Display as segment data, rather than ascii / decimal numbers, so first you have to reconstruct the numbers from the segment data, then you can manipulate, then you can display.

For Stage 3 I have some other nice ideas for the display of some manipulated / value added data.


I intend this to be purely for people who want to run without a PC, so no attempt will be made to make it work with a PC attached, as you are then much better off to just display the PC Race Management data directly.

So as I say very early days, the prototype has shown that this approach is possible, so I thought I would share at this point to get some feedback as to if people are interested and any ideas that you have as to functionality?

Rich
 

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Living the Life!
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Great stuff ........ that's so much better than that little screen ....... any chance of running the screen in portrait as opposed to the normal landscape orientation?

Regards - Greg
 

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David.
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Yes. Simple as. You are a genius, even I have a spare computer screen.
 

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Greg Gaub
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Very VERY clever! Well done, sir! And the best part is that you can choose your screen size! It could be a tiny little display on the table itself, or a huge flat panel or projector on a wall. Add a VGA to TV adapter and the possibilities are even more varied.
Very cool, Rich!
 

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OK so it looks like there is a litte interest.


Portrait screen is probably possible, but I will have to define a sideways font and the display order will have to be changed etc. So let's leave it as a maybe for now as there is a lot of other stuff to do first.

Yes screen size choice is nice, there are even some 4", 5" & 7" ones. VGA to Video may not be necessary as I think I can do a Video out as an option, but have not tested yet.

No change to the Powerbase firmware needed, it just plugs straight up. I have actually got a splitter fitted and am driving the original display & the VGA at the same time. I hope it can be powered from the Powerbase, but this slightly tricky because the current taken from the Aux port determine if the Powerbase is in SNC (Screen Not Connected) or Screen Connected mode. We need connected mode for this to work.

Rich
 

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OK ....... so when can I have one , please????
 

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Alfie Noakes
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Hi Rich, please add me to the growing wave of enthusiasm about this.
Could you clarify for us computer thickos out here what makes a monitor a VGA monitor, because I think I've got one...
Cheers,
Richard
 

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Not ready to comit to timescales yet, I have been thinking about this one for a while but only got started 4 Days ago.
The critical path will be through the hardware design and PCB layout. Software will as always be field upgradeable so much less of an issue. I don't want to commit to a circuit board untill I have tried a few things and got some feedback from you guys as to modes of use etc. You don't want to have more than a couple of goes getting it right, else it gets very expensive. My best guess is some prototypes in a couple of Months, & first production in 3 Months.

Cable to connect will just be an RJ11 lead and will be included. Reprogramming will need an Aux lead. I am assuming this will be a C7042 Aux lead, but there are some complications which I wont bore you with untill I have researched further.

On the monitor front, in simple terms if you have one it will support VGA.
Also I expect this to also give a video output enabling it to plug up to most TV's. I will confirm this in the next couple of days, but quality will not be as good, particularily if you start putting more data on the screen as I have in mind for the practice time data.

Rich
 

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Hi Rich, looks great, would love to have one. Any news on getting til normal display from C7042 to work together with SSDC.
 

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In order that the Scalextric Display could be used with the PC connected it will need the Display and the the PC to be parallel connected, and for SSDC to send data on the RS448 Bus to drive the display. This data can probably be interleaved with the Powerbase comms. Will also have to solve the problem of keeping the Powerbase in SNC mode, which will either mean the display being separately powered, or better for Andrew to change the code on the Powerbase.

Can I suggest that although these items are losely related, if people want to discuss this further can someone get this Topic is moved to new thread as otherwise things are going to get very confusing.


Rich
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Have you not watched the video? It is colour & a monitor is backlit.


Rich
 

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This is a neat idea...

Nice work converting the data stream... thats a really neat solution... Kind of something from nothing that.

I like the options... they are endless... Especially if you used a VGA to Scart converters and then bought one of the cheap 3.5" TV screens designed for in car use.... would give you "Jumbotron" style lap dispalys that could become part of the scenery... using a VGA multiplyer box you could have several screens both scenically and as intended running simultaneously...

Most modern flat panel TV's will display 600 x 800 VGA anyway... so even rug racers could have it on the TV screen while they race...

Like the idea a lot rich... Just such a shame the SNC and Infinate resistance problem when switching between lap tower connected/SSDC connected modes... I'm sure many SSDC owners would love to be able to race without booting the PC every time... Maybe one day...

All we need now is for you to work out how to reduce the volume of the "beeps" the APB makes and marital harmony the slot world over will be restrored!
 

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This is kinda cool Rich. I'm still awaiting the shipment to us of APBs, but I gotta say that looking at the APB interface and what you're forced to create, I'm a bit disappointed in the display. For such an amazing piece of horsepower, why is the LCD screen so appallingly 'antiquated'

Ah well, I guess its a bit of the Microsoft view to slotting - it'll be the lowest common denominator, and everyone else will be forced to 'do better to compete'. And now the competition arrives...

Ian
 

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Would it be possible to use proper words instead of the txtspek for the display??
 

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Hi Guys

Thanks for the support & inputs, a couple of comments.

Yes it's a great pity that Scalextric chose to recognise the Display presence by current draw? Why given that there is bidirectional comms & a processor at each end they did not just exchange a couple of bytes to say there was the display connected I do not know? They even had to build in current detection hardware, then there is also then a nasty algorithm with hysterisis bult in in case the current changes, so attaching hardware that takes current and getting / keeping the Powerbase into the right mode can be a nightmare.

Andrew could of course change the detection etc, however for things like this they need to work with all versions of hardware, so that's no go.

Also they chose to make the Display very dumb and it just responds to segment data, which means I have a lot of work to do to convert that segment and position data back into real numbesr to then manipulate. Anyway we have what we have so will work with it. So far there are no show stoppers, jusy some messy programming.

I had a quick play with a video out driver this Morning and it sort of works, colours are muted and it's not as clear. So for the moment I am not going to work on it as I think it will be a big job. I will however make provision on the circuit board for the handful of components that are needed, as that is low cost.

The best solution for SSDC users that want to run without booting the PC, would be to just use a VGA switch. They are unbelievably cheap on eBay

I thought that Andrew had made it possible to turn off the bleeps in his latest firmware?

Conversion of text speak, or more rightly 7 segment speak,
to English would be possible, but I am not making it a priority as I think the display during run time as opposed to set up time is more important.

So I am going to spend a week or so playing with the software, and taking inputs from you guys. I am working on a Practice / Qualifying mode screen at the moment that will simultaneously display the last 10 laps and the best lap for each car.

Then I will move onto the more important / critical path task of laying out the circuit board and getting some prototypes on order. However there are a number of hardware design decisions to make, and a few things to prototype before I am ready to comit. As ever there will be a trade off between functionality, options and price.

So keep the inputs and questions coming, particularily anything that might influence the hardware.

Rich
 
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