James Brown's LEGO Computer Brick Hides a Fully-Functional, Programmable OLED Display

Created using homebrew injection molding into a 3D-printed form, these semi-functional LEGO computers look like magic.

Gareth Halfacree
19 days ago3D Printing / Art

Maker James Brown is building LEGO computer blocks with a difference: they're semi-functional, containing just enough in the way of electronics to scroll some blocky "text" up a very real screen.

The LEGO computer block, a slanted device with a CRT-style display showing dashed lines representing text next to three lights or buttons, has undergone a range of redesigns through the ages — with one variant, designed as an embedded computer within a spaceship set, even lighting up when connected to a suitable battery.

Brown's version, though, goes quite a bit further. Before being connected, the block appears near-identical to the original version — except for being constructed from textured translucent plastic and lacking the printed-on display decal. Once fitted, it reveals its hidden secret: a functional OLED display that mimics the fake text of the decal, but in animated form.

The tiny display is connected to a nearly-as-tiny control board using a flexible PCB, and the whole assembly fitted into a 3D-printed form. The form is placed into a mold and, in Brown's words, "dunked in gunk," which then hardens into the transparent plastic of the finished item.

By varying the program running on the microcontroller, it's possible for Brown's design to mimic other electronic LEGO blocks through history — including showing a realistic-looking radar-sweep. "I guess," he jokes, "I'm just going to work my way through [the designs] then."

More details on the project are available in Brown's Twitter thread.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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