So I finally finished the prototype of the 128 x 32 Light Emitting Diode Dot Matrix Display V1.0 (LEDDMD). The protocol to write to the display is almost exactly like a shift register. There is a clock, latch, and data lines. It works in either 1 bit mode or 8 bit mode data line modes.
In 1 bit mode there is only 1 data line and in 8 bit mode this is 8 data lines. 8 bit mode enables you to clock in an entire byte of data at a time speeding up the transfer process by a factor of 8. In either mode you can do animations smoothly. All processing of the data is done on the microcontroller. The Display stores the data and takes care of running the display.
The bulk of the hardware is in the FPGA. I am using a Cyclone II EP2C8Q208C8N FPGA breakout board. There are some darlington transistor arrays that sink the current from a single row. To expand the I/O of the FPGA some decoders are used.
The verilog code is almost fully debugged. The demo code that will run on a Parallax Propeller is in the works. Right now the demo is fairly basic. Today I wrote a C program that takes a 4-bit bitmap image and strips out the header and and converts it to a 2-bit image. It then reorientates the data so the image is “correct”. Bitmap images data reads the image from bottom left to top right. This is essentially backwards. So the program corrects this which means less work for the microcontroller and faster transmission of pixels.
The old program took to make Logic elements to fit. Now it uses a 2-port RAM element to replace the huge registers. The protocol for shifting in is a bit different now. Instead of shifting in all the data at once and then Latching the user shifts in the data 64 bits at a time then latches.