LCD Screen to Digital Photo Frame
November 3, 2005 11:11 AM   Subscribe

After searching Google and the archives of AskMe, I've come across some great suggestions and ideas for making digital photo frames. From what I can determine, however, all of these require a computer of some kind built into the frame. Supposing one only has a laptop screen? Specifically, the screen from an old ThinkPad with a blown motherboard. Could I connect the monitor to my network somehow? Hook it up to some special circuit board designed for just this sort of thing?
posted by aladfar to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
You could...probably. I suspect this might be a pretty major task though. I'm not even sure how you would manage to attatch anything to the ThinkPad screen since it'll use some funky ultra narrow ribbon cable type thing to interface with the monitor, soldering anything to which would probably be tricky.

On a feasibility scale for anyone who isn't an electrical engineer with a lot of spare time, i'm gunna rank this pretty low.
posted by alexst at 11:16 AM on November 3, 2005

Response by poster: Ah, I didn't think about it that way. While not entirely unfamiliar with a soldering iron, I can't say I really know what I'm doing. For some reason, I thought this would be fairly straightforward.

Perhaps I'd be better off replacing the motherboard and then converting it to a photo frame somehow.
posted by aladfar at 11:21 AM on November 3, 2005

Yes that is the problem with laptop screens. Every manufacturer has their own connection from the motherboard. This makes the screens pretty useless by themselves. Maybe try finding another laptop of the same model with a broken screen. It would be extremely cheap because the screen is the most expensive part on old laptops.
posted by meta87 at 11:58 AM on November 3, 2005

The ribbon cable is only part of the problem. Those LCD panels are pretty dumb, they don't contain any memory or anything. Depending on how old the screen is, it'll either use TTL or LVDS signalling over that ribbon cable to send the video image from the video controller on the motherboard to the LCD panel.

So, to use this LCD panel, you need a video controller. In your case, it's on your broken motherboard.

You also would need to know the pinout of that ribbon cable to be able to connect it to something. There is no standard so you would have to get the technical docs for the LCD panel to be able to figure it out.

I have a bunch of LCD panels myself that I'd like to convert into effectively dumb terminals that are connected to the network. In my case, I had planned on developing a PCB with a video controller that uses LVDS to connect these panels up and an ARM microcontroller for the programmable logic. However, without much experience in digital electronics (which I don't :) it's a difficult job and could be a little pricey.

I would suggest getting the motherboard working again. You might be able to find a replacement on eBay. It'll be *much* easier.
posted by johannes at 12:30 PM on November 3, 2005

If you can pick up a cheap one from ebay with a broken screen, this PDF will show you how to replace the LCD/take the thing apart into minimal components.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 12:35 PM on November 3, 2005

I like the idea of finding a broken screen replacement on ebay, or consider just selling your screen and using the funds to purchase a complete working laptop. To be a photo frame doesn't require much more than any sort of colour laptop, so I would think you might even afford a couple of old pentiums for what your screen might sell for.
posted by bystander at 4:12 AM on November 4, 2005

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