Tips for ‘Researching Unknown Hardware’

Blackroomsec have a quick write-up on ‘researching unknown hardware,’ in this case investigating a generic 16×2 LCD display module. We’ve all gone down this rabbit hole, or acquired an unknown piece of hardware from a fellow maker or hacker (or just found on the street) and had to figure it out. These are some good tips for doing exactly that:

As a computer repair person first and now hacker, I am constantly given pieces of hardware and even software that other people have lost interest in, don’t know how to use or because they think it will be useful to me. Or they want me to fix them. Because of this overwhelming generosity I’ve had to buy dollar plastic tubs to keep all this stuff in and then do an inventory every six months because who can remember it all! It comes in handy, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not a computer warehouse!

This also doesn’t always mean I immediately or even instinctively know how to use these things I’m given. I have a general idea of what I SHOULD do with it based on previous experience but as a hacker I want to learn what else I can do with it that the original designer or manufacturer didn’t think of at first. Hacking is all about exploration and discovery. I’m going to use a recent Arduino example for this piece of advice because it illustrates my point beautifully.

If Joe is searching for this just from the part number and hits upon that site and reads it he’s going to learn what he’s going to need (wiring, Arduino board, and software) and if he doesn’t have these things will then have to research how to get them.

I like to buy ready-made kits like Elegoo and Sunfounder because they contain lots of little parts to play around with. Even if you’re NEVER going to use these things, like motors? If you’re learning about Arduino or any other physical computing device you should really familiarize yourself with as many of its capabilities as possible.

Having done this I was able to help fix a motor that was controlled by an Arduino board at work recently. If I didn’t play around previously, I wouldn’t have known what to do with it, is my point.

Lots more info appears. If I click on images I can see the exact wiring scheme I need with real photos of how others hooked it up.

I also can supply the word “adafruit” or “pighixxx” at the end to see if their versions of pinouts appear.


Read more.

Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here:

Join Adafruit on Mastodon

Adafruit is on Mastodon, join in!

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Join over 36,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community!

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers –

Maker Business — “Packaging” chips in the US

Wearables — Enclosures help fight body humidity in costumes

Electronics — Transformers: More than meets the eye!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Silicon Labs introduces CircuitPython support, and more! #CircuitPython #Python #micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Guardian Robot, Weather-wise Umbrella Stand, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — #NewProds 7/19/23 Feat. Adafruit Matrix Portal S3 CircuitPython Powered Internet Display!

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at !

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.