With all the fuss over Kindle Fire I thought it might be fun to see if the humble 8-Bit microtouch hardware would do a servicable job as an e-reader. With a bit of fiddling it turns out to be a quite capable if not entirely practical eBook.
There are hundreds of thousands of books available in the epub format. The format is essentially a collection html/css/jpeg files and xml metadata such as author/title/table of contents bundled into a zip file (If you want to look inside an epub file simply change ‘.epub’ extension to ‘.zip’ and double click). I thought it might be possible to build a reader for the microtouch that would directly read a standard epub but the code and memory requirements for things like jpeg/png/gif decoders, xml parsers and decompression overwhelmed the available 2.5k RAM/32k Flash. The alternative was to transcode into a format that retained all the structure of the epub in a form easily digestible by a small, 8-bit device.
Microtouch – 2.4, make your own “iTouch-like” device! Sure, the latest “iTouchy” gadgets are pretty cool. But who wants a locked down device? Why not build your own touch-screen device, with your own apps, all on open source hardware and using open source tools? OK, it can’t play MP3s, but it does have a 320×240 TFT color display with resistive touch screen, an Atmega32u4 8-bit microcontroller, lithium polymer battery charger, backlight control, micro-SD slot, and a triple-axis accelerometer. Yeah, this is the next big thing and for those of us who like to DIY, you can do a lot of cool stuff with this dev board.
This product is just the Microtouch dev board (preloaded with some demo Apps), and does not include a lithium polymer battery or a microSD card. You will need a lipoly battery with 2-pin JST connector for best performance. It can run straight from USB but due to the charger design, the backlight will be dimmed so it will not appear as bright as with a battery installed. We strongly suggest our medium lipoly but you can substitute another 3.7V cell. A microSD card will be handy if you want to display images, slideshows or animations.
- Atmega32u4 – 32KB of flash, 2.5K of RAM with usb bootloader
- 2.8″ 320×240 16-bit color, TFT display with resistive touch screen
- Lithium polymer battery charging via USB
- 3-axis accelerometer, MMA7544 +-2g to +-8g resolution
- Micro SD card slot
- Battery monitoring, backlight control and on/off switch
Of course, we wouldn’t just leave you with a schematic or datasheet and say ‘good luck’! The designer of the Microtouch (known to us by the code name “Rossum” ) has written a full hardware core operating system and multiple demo apps such as…
- Image viewer built into the hardware core, you can plug in a microSD card with images, slide shows or animations that show up as ‘mini Apps’
- Calibrate Touch-screen
- Doomed a 3D rendering maze
- Accelerate keep the ball in the center of the screen by tilting
- Paint fingerpainting but without the cleanup
- Flip a Reversi game
- Mines like Minesweeper but without the hassle of installing Windows
- 3D Icosohedron controllable by tilting the board
- Pacman a sprite animation demo
- Lattice 3D lattice demo
The Microtouch is powerful and fun but is not meant for microcontroller beginners! If you’re just starting out, we suggest checking out the Arduino to get your feet wet. Once you feel comfy with programming C and programming microcontrollers directly, come back and pick up one of these.
The project is a collaboration between Rossum & Ladyada! For detailed documentation and files, please visit the product page