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Raspberry Pi Powers Art in Seven Segments

Chris Combs' ‘One to Many’ artwork
(Image credit: Chris Combs)

We love giant displays, so when news of a 26 x 20.5 inch mega-display which uses 500 seven segment LED displays and is powered by a Raspberry Pi 4 reached our ears via Hackaday, (opens in new tab) we were irresistibly drawn. The Raspberry Pi is much more than a credit card sized computer, and here we can see how artists incorporating technology into their work.

As you can see, however, it’s perhaps not the highest resolution screen out there. Maker and artist Chris Combs has hacked together enough seven-segment displays (from two boxfuls he picked up cheaply, 500 in total) to create over 1,100 digits from 7,200 segments acting as a single unit with a neat 4:3 aspect ratio.

The trick is a Raspberry Pi 4 (opens in new tab) acting as a coordinating brain, which runs three different i2C busses, which in turn interface with the 48 IS31FL3733 controllers needed to push all the displays, which are wired in groups of six.

Entitled ‘One to Many’, the array of displays is on display at the VisArts Concourse Gallery in Rockville, MD, from September 3 to October 17 as part of Combs’ show called ‘Lossiness (opens in new tab)’, where it shows imagery related to automation and the replacement of humans by machines.  Combs has also logged the build should you wish to tackle this yourself.

Ian Evenden
Ian Evenden

Ian Evenden is a UK-based news writer for Tom’s Hardware US. He’ll write about anything, but stories about Raspberry Pi and DIY robots seem to find their way to him.