Roughly 50 years ago, man first set foot on the moon. It was an incredible feat, especially considering that state-of-the-art computing of the time meant that the Apollo 11 craft that took astronauts there had less computing power than a basic Arduino. That, of course, doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a wide range of amazing technology onboard.
While replicating most of the Apollo 11 is well out of the capabilities of one person, Ben Krasnow of Applied Science decided to recreate one of the most iconic internal components, the DSKY guidance computer display. For this “retro computing” task, he constructed a custom driver board as well as a display board to control the electroluminescent surface made out of ITO (indium tin oxide) glass. Since the two are separate, the top board could theoretically be swapped out to create a different display pattern.
The actual process of creating the EL glass display is quite involved, and includes applying black lettering, silver epoxy dots, a phosphor layer, dielectric layer, and finally the actual printed black conductive ink. The display board itself is then used to make electrical contact with the glass and light up each segment. A Microchip ATSAMD21E microcontroller runs everything, along with HV507 high voltage shift registers.
The project is open source, and files are available on GitHub if you’d like to try it out for yourself. Krasnow outlines the build and the challenges he went through to put things together in the video above.