KoloKush's DeskPal Puts a Classic 16×2 Character LCD to Work as a Smart Desktop Display System

Powered by Python running on a Raspberry Pi Zero, this modular project is elegant in its simplicity.

Pseudonymous control systems engineer KoloKush has a desktop assistant with a difference: the Raspberry Pi-powered DeskPal eschews more modern bitmap displays in favor of a classic 16×2 character LCD.

"[DeskPal is a] Raspberry Pi Zero LCD 16×2 interactive desk screen," KoloKush explains of the project, which pairs the popular low-cost single-board computer with a display more commonly seen in microcontroller-based projects. "A Raspberry Pi Zero W was used for this project running 32-bit [Raspberry Pi OS] Lite."

Where similar smart desktop accessory projects tend towards bitmap-based displays — often electrophoretic ePaper, which has the benefits of a low power draw and sunlight readability balanced against either grayscale or limited color and a slow refresh rate — the DeskPal opts for a classic 16-column two-line character display with blue backlight.

Once the go-to display for microcontroller projects, unless you needed the extra space of a four-line version, these displays have largely been replaced by low-cost SPI-connected color LCDs.

A vintage display doesn't mean the DeskPal isn't smart, though. The Raspberry Pi Zero plays host to a series of Python scripts designed to pull down data via the board's Wi-Fi radio, selectable using buttons at the screen's main menu: the current time can give way to a stock ticker or weather data, and the project's modular mature makes it easy to add more features in the future.

Source code and schematics for the DeskPal are available on GitHub, under an unspecified license.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
Latest articles
Sponsored articles
Related articles
Latest articles
Read more
Related articles