About two years ago I decided that I wanted to use an LCD display to present system related information such as CPU temperature, fan speeds etc.
After an extensive period of web research it became obvious that much of the information was made available in the late 90's and predominately covered interfacing
displays to a PC parallel port and to a lesser extent to serial ports whilst I wanted to use a USB and/or Ethernet connectivity. The reason for adopting this design
aim was simple; motherboards were just emerging that were 'legacy free' i.e. that had neither parallel nor serial interfaces readily available.
The research showed that the simplest way to implement a display was to purchase a unit that had an on board serial interface. All that needed to be done was to plug the unit into the appropriate port, load some software that supported the display and you had an instant display. However, the down side of this approach was the cost. In the UK it was possible to obtain a 2 line 16 character display for about £15 to £20 but those that offered an on board serial interface were in the region of £60 to £70 and as I had three systems that I wished to'mod' that was serious money. So I decided that such an approach was not for me.
The only other (readily available) approach was to obtain a 'bare' LCD and wire it up so that it could be connected to a parallel port. In order continue my 'education' I purchased an LCD display and, with the aid of information gleaned from the web, connected it to the parallel port. I then installed a software package and after a bit of tailoring had the whole thing up and running. The total cost was in the region of £20.
However, I still wanted a USB or Ethernet connected device and I also wanted a solution that allowed me to have many of the features that were only available to users of the serially connected devices (start up messages etc) so more research followed. I now realised that I needed a micro controller of some sort to allow me to produce a solution that would provide all of the features I required. Someone said 'use a PIC' and my reply was 'what's a PIC?'. More research and procurement of some PICs and a development system. A few months later and I had a parallel port connected solution that offered similar functionality to that available on the commercially available serial port devices. A further few months and I had a USB connected solution. I have recently switched to a graphics LCD solution and started the whole development cycle again.
Now to the reason for the site: I decided that there are probably people out there who would like to follow a similar path or even just like to produce their own USB connected device at a much lower cost than the commercial items, especially if the user alraedy had a parallel connected display unit. So I have decided to publish the details of my design(s) and make available the PIC and PC based code free of charge. I will also provide links to all suppliers (that I know of) that supply LCD modules together with UK based suppliers of the components that I have used in constructing my projects. To any one who uses the designs 'good luck', you do not have to be an experienced electronics engineer to build the units (but such skill makes the task easier) nor do you require hard to get components.