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Lego Macintosh Classic with e‑paper display (jann.is)
468 points by andrevoget on Apr 7, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 94 comments

Is somebody able to explain why certain e-ink displays are so slow to refresh while others are much faster? For instance my Garmin Vivoactive HR e-ink display, that is even capable of displaying 64 colors, is like an LCD display in terms of refresh rate apparently, you can't see the difference easily, while the one that was used to build this project takes a lot of time to even show a single frame (see the Youtube video where the display is presented, following the link Jann provided in the blog post). My best guess is that they use completely different technologies.

EDIT: Vivoactive HR uses a Transreflective LCD actually. This web site explains very well how it works:


That's because your Garmin actually uses a type of 'transreflective' LCD and not e-ink...


Ok cool, thank you. The contrast is actually not like an e-ink display, but under sunlight it becomes excellent.

Does that really have an e-ink display? Their specs page says "sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)" which seems to be a type of LCD that has characteristics like e-ink.

Also: Thanks for Redis!

Yes, you are right... different tech indeed! Works as a very good approximation of an e-ink frankly (I've a few kindle readers for comparison), but the contrast in artificial light is not as good as e-ink. Thanks! (and you are welcome).

Depending on what updates you need, you don't need to do a full refresh of the e-paper display (there will be some ghosting, though). Check out this video from papirus: https://twitter.com/gregeric/status/849218168224702465 That updates pretty nicely. And thank you for making redis!

Very cool! Thanks

Also, IIRC e-ink is trademarked, e-paper is just any display with paper-like appearance. Marketing!

> Is somebody able to explain why certain e-ink displays are so slow to refresh while others are much faster?

Sometimes it's the interface rather than the eink. The one in the article is a serial SPI interface. If the interface is parallel, instead it can be 8x, 16x, etc. faster

I believe it's just due to the niche application space.

2012 era Nook eink reader playing a game with hacked refresh:


The tech can do better, but as I've heard it told, the market for it has been eink readers. Who needs to refresh their book at 120hz? is the thinking. Folks that want to game or have a "retina" resolution buy a tablet proper.

Upping refresh has steep power costs too. Ereader marketers like their "recharge once every 6-8 weeks!" message.

> The tech can do better, but as I've heard it told, the market for it has been eink readers. Who needs to refresh their book at 120hz? is the thinking. Folks that want to game or have a "retina" resolution buy a tablet proper.

Personally, I'd love to read most web-pages on an e-ink display, due to the high contrast, minimal power usage, and great readability even in direct light. I don't care hugely about usability for dynamic content, but I'd want fast scrolling with no update artifacts.

Related question: what's the state of color e-ink displays? Seems like it should be possible to produce a bi-stable display with a little bit of color depth, even if just through filters and dithering.

> Related question: what's the state of color e-ink displays?

They demonstrated true color in 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2V9iuTW3sA I would guess another 3 to 4 years to consumer availability.

That's really impressive. I look forward to seeing that in production.

(Also, some searching suggests that it's "tens of thousands of colors" rather than true color, but that's still a major improvement, and more than enough for the majority of the web sans photographs.)

> "tens of thousands of colors" rather than true color

My meaning by true color was color achieved through actual pigment pixels versus older E-Ink products like triton that achieved color through LCD-like RGB color filters on top of reflective/non-reflective pixels. The difference between the two is quite stark.

They stopped bothering. They had some demo screens a few years back, mira-something I think, and a few products that used it, but nobody bought it because the colors were terrible due to the entire "e-inks generally don't require backlights and so massive contrast issues" I think the tech got bought up and pretty much shoved in a corner somewhere

Mirasol display is I think what you're trying to recall. I still have one; a Kyobo Android 'tablet'. In typical tablet usage conditions (i.e. indoors, probably at night on a bed) then yes, mirasol displays and color e-ink screens never matched LCDs and SAMOLEDS. Mirasol was decent/serviceable imo while color e-ink has been truly terrible.

However in outdoor conditions (e.g. at the beach or a park) I still haven't seen any iPad or Samsung display as pleasing as my old mirasol display without backlight. If someone released a new mirasol display ereader today, I would buy it in a heartbeat

If you're refreshing rapidly, you might lose a lot of that battery life, based on my experience with extended fast reading sessions on my Kindle.

Incredible work jayniz -- I guess everyone and their mother is suggesting improvements, are you preparing a new version with the rpi zero W and non-cut lego blocks?

Disclaimer: resin.io founder, we're so happy you chose resin for this awesome project ;)

Ha, exactly, but it's all good :) One guy actually made an LDD model that would require no cutting. I'll post it as a follow up on my blog.

Also to everybody reading this: I'd respond to the other comments but hacker news doesn't let me ("you're submitting too fast" even though I didn't write anything since half an hour or so)

Awesome! I love how HN connects people.

I'd love a pi with an e-paper display (larger than the lego Mac) which just booted into Raspbian CLI. Has such a thing been done?

I'd also love something like that. It seems there is a lack of demand though, as larger e-ink displays get expensive [0] and the only kits designed for the Raspberry Pi are small (<3"), so you'd need to figure out the protocol yourself.

That combined with a small keyboard and a phone for a hotspot would be awesome, I'd love to be able to sit in a park and code in the summer...

[0] 7.4" for $122, they sell a 10" for $300 http://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/SW074AS182/SW074AS1...

Look into jailbroken e-readers. Not as much freedom with the hardware, potentially driver issues for peripherals, but cheap.

Recent relevant HN thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13863046

Hey, that's my thread! In case anyone's wondering, I ended up with a $25 Nook Simple Touch. If you just want the screen and no touch capability, then look through the rest of the thread. Unfortunately, I have not had the time to play with it much yet, but I can tell you the rooting process works very smoothly for the NST.

What do I need to write to talk to the 10" display?

There's this 4.3" display: http://www.waveshare.com/4.3inch-e-paper.htm

I have one, seems well built, it's just been sitting in a box until I come up with a good use for it.

My google-fu seems to be failing, since I can't find an example of the larger e-ink displays being used with the pi. (excluding kindle and kobo hacks)

It looks like there's a business opportunity here for someone to make a really slick browser based LEGO editor that does cost estimates and orders all the correct components for you when you're finished. I'm curious how large the market for such a thing would be.

LEGO itself had such a service, but shut it down in 2012: http://ldd.lego.com/en-us/subpages/designbyme

I remember using it in middle school and the prices were quite high. It was a great idea but no parents wanted to pay an extra premium on top of an already expensive product.

BrickStock is an OSX application that takes your Lego Digital Designer files and breaks them out into a manifest, which it then uses to reference the BrickLink marketplace for pricing.

There's this: https://www.mecabricks.com/en/workshop

No integrated purchase though.

I see. As with any decent obvious idea, it's already been done 10x better than I could hope to. Thanks.

The Mac 128k was not from 1988. In that time frame, The Mac plus was the first really usable model with a 20MB HDD.

The Mac 128k is a different model, check out the floppy slot!

jayniz - all your comments on this post are dead, it looks like you may have been shadowbanned

(apologies for hijacking the comment!)

Well that explains why my post of this story got no upvotes. Thanks for telling me. No idea why my account would be shadowbanned. How do I unban it?

Anyways, here's my response to walrus01:

The Mac 128k is a different model, check out the floppy slot!

> No idea why my account would be shadowbanned.

3 years ago you committed the offence of punning on HN, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5144413


> How do I unban it?

e-mail the mods at hn@ycombinator.com

FYI you can click on a dead comment's timestamp and vouch for it. May require a certain minimum karma to do that.

The Mac Plus didn't have a hard drive, the Mac SE did.

I had a Mac Plus with an Apple HD 20 hard drive.

It wasn't internal but it was made for the Plus.

It was an odd beast that connected to the external floppy connector.

I also had a Mac Plus with an external 20MB hard drive (this was late 1988). It wasn't the Apple HD20 [0] (which I had never heard of until now) but a 3rd party model, it used the Plus's SCSI port and had the same footprint so it sat underneath. I see Apple also made an HD20SC that used SCSI.

I didn't understand walrus01's comment to mean an external, rather than internal, hard drive.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_Disk_20

Yes, but it was the first model with a SCSI port and commonly sold with an external HDD that it sat on top of.

I don't get it.. is it just using e-ink to display greyscale image? So that's just a screenshot of app chrome and the hello text?

I wish exist a e-paper suitable for use as monitor (21" at least)

* I mean, not a prototype in a galaxy far away

My dream is an e-paper laptop

Don't let your dreams be dreams: https://www.engadget.com/2010/07/19/how-to-install-pixel-qis...

(A friend of mine is about to order this, i've seen it, it's as awesome as you'd imagine)

That's not e-paper.

Amazing, thank you! How have I not heard of this?

Not an e-paper laptop, but an interesting tangent from yesteryear. Did you see the display in the OLPC? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OLPC_XO#Display

Yes, though I opted not to get one because of the form factor and all the sacrifices they made in service of their goal (which was great but not for me).

I would kill for a 12.1" 16:10 eink panel for my x201. I enjoy sitting in the garden at work in the summer.

Now it just needs to accept "something" through the slot to trigger "something" to happen on the screen.

Pics need a banana for scale

/E I'm serious though, it is hard to tell how large it is from the pics

In the colourful prototype picture there's a bottle cap for scale. It's a breach of Internet etiquette, which would require a banana, but it works for the purpose.

"Banana for scale" is really just Reddit and Imgur.

And Reddit is the front page of the Internet ;).

True! I forgot, apologies. Now it's already at my friend's place and I need him to take the photo :-)

Screen is 2.7" diagonal, so (roughly) the front face of this computer is about the size of a 3.5" floppy.

True! I forgot, apologies. Now it's already at my friend's place and I need him to take the photo :-)

Cutting lego bricks? Eugh. There's specific bricks that would have worked exactly.

Don't worry, I discussed this with the folks at LEGO already and we're good: http://imgur.com/dOkyl4S

But yeah, after this post some nice folks showed me how a <2mm wall can be achieved without slaughtering bricks (special wall pieces, mounted sideways to allow for the left side of the display's board to disappear in in the Mac's frame).

What bricks are those? I don't really see how you would build that wall. It looks like it needs to be thinner than 1 unit.

Also can the floppy slot be used for the microSD card?

This brick:


I think there others too

Um. Did you mean to post a link? All I see is garbled text.

Rule #1: don't cut LEGO

Yeah, it... Kind of misses the entire point of LEGO lol.

and catastrophe*. Not OP but I just have to

I very much prefer 'catastrophy' - it's well-earned failure.

I (o _ o) when I saw the picture. GorE.

Definitely an illegal connection...

How powerful is this small replica compared to the original hardware?

Looks really slick! Is there any way to interact with the system though?

Is the Pi actually running Mac OS or is it just a static image?

It should be able to run Mac OS software using an emulator, similar to a previous project that used a Raspberry Pi:

http://retromaccast.ning.com/profiles/blogs/honey-i-shrunk-t... https://www.engadget.com/2013/08/28/mini-classic-macintosh-m...

Awesome project!

Would anyone else chose a different software solution rather than Docker with resin.io? I love working on projects like this but I've stayed away from Docker so far. Docker plus a third-party service to manage it seems like it could be overkill, but it obviously got the job done.

Speaking as a resin fan, you need to know 0 about docker to use it. It does virtually everything for you, the fact that it's docker underneath is hidden entirely except in that you can write a dockerfile.

It's like how you don't need to provision hardware with Heroku. You just git push. And it works.

That's awesome... but can you really play shufflepuck on eInk? I miss shufflepuck too!

Yea, I was expecting he was going to run an emulator of some kind; was confused about the docker image.

I'm also wondering if it's running software or displaying a static image.

Now this really needs to be running Basilisk II and a System 7 ROM. Hook up a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and you're set.

Probably that's how we will build computers in 20 years.

Docker emulator images on ARM hardware? Hardly.

Does it emulate the Macintosh Classic?

Why would you put an e-ink display on this if it’s not going to be used?

Pretty cool. I like it!

nice font

Thats a good loooking website. Thumbs up!

Thanks, it's just the default theme from ghost.org :)

no mac os?

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