Why ShiftBrites Exist

I ran across some photos of an impressive project on Flickr, uploaded in mid-2007. tellini on Flickr was apparently building a bar of individually-controlled RGB LEDs, with an Arduino. Only 1.5 years ago, there weren't many options to get this working; the ShiftBrite was a rough concept buried in a folder in my computer. He used a lot of shift registers, a lot of wire, and a lot of hard work. Here's what the prototype looked like: 

And after he put the final system together:

I was interested in this project because it reminded me of the Giant Election Meter I recently built using 32 ShiftBrites. All I had to do was figure out how to mount the ShiftBrites (I used zip ties) and then chain them together with the premade short cables. The interface to the controller was just four wires, plus power and ground. And the ShiftBrites are capable of 30-bit color (though perceived brightness curves make the top end changes hard to see). I was able to control them with a relatively slow BASIC-programmable controller, though an Arduino also works and other users have created some convenient libraries.

Election Meter

Tellini's project looks great, but I imagine it took many hours, possibly a whole week, to build and test. The entire Election Meter project was built in about two hours, including the mounting board, Bluetooth connectivity, and numerical displays. Anyway, I thought it was a good example of the wiring and control problems that ShiftBrites can solve.


Submitted by Garrett on Mon, 12/01/2008 - 23:27.