Unimplemented Trap
Adventures in hardware and software

Arduino games console with a vacuum fluorescent display

The Noritake Itron Gu20x8 is a 3 colour, 20 pixel wide by 8 pixel high graphic vacuum fluorescent display. Not the most practical display in the world, but I guess that’s the charm? There aren't many examples online, but enough info can be found online to drive one.

My initial plan was to write Conway’s Game of Life in 6502 assembly and run it off a small single board 6502 machine. I completed a set of driver routines but quickly went out of my depth when it came to implementing the actual game in assembly language too. I soon moved this onto an Arduino for more rapid development.

I added buttons to allow me to edit the cells before running the simulation. Seemed a shame to limit this to only playing Game of Life, so before long, I had added a simple paint program (you can save your art onto the Arduino’s EEPROM), a snake game, and a “snow” animation. It’s become a sort of tiny games console.

It’s constructed in 2 parts as I planned to have the display re-usable for other projects. The display enclosure contains a simple voltage converter and some shift registers piggy-backed on the display PCB to reduce the pin count needed to send the display data over the ribbon cable that joins the two parts.

The controller contains an Arduino nano, all the buttons, and a piezo buzzer which was a last minute addition to give it a little more pizzazz.

To match the warm vintage glow of the VFD the cases are finished with some woodgrain side panels.

The Source

Demo Video

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