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Blinky FAQ

  • What microcontroller is used in the Blinky Grid and Blinky POV kits?

    The Blinky Grid and Blinky POV kits use a Microchip P16F1823 microcontroller.

  • What programming language did you use for the Blinky Grid and Blinky POV kits?

    The Blinky Grid and Blinky POV program consists of two pieces. The bootloader reads the light sensors and can overwrite the secondary program and the EEPROM. This is written in C. The secondary program reads the EEPROM and turns the stored message into blinking lights. It was originally written in C, but we ran out of program space and still wanted to add more features, so we switched to assembly.

  • What was the most common bug when developing these kits?

    “Silly radix, tricks are for kids!” Easily, the most common bugs we introduced (and then fixed) were radix issues. I kept forgetting to specify what base my constants were in.

  • What music did you listen to while developing this kit?

    Mostly the Tron: Legacy soundtrack, over and over and over, but towards the end, I listened to “All Day” by Girl Talk. Additionally, The Black Keys’ new album “Brothers” and some classic R.E.M made the playlist a number of times.

  • What beverages fueled the development of this kit?

    Wayne: Coke Zero and half a case of Club Mate. Layne: Homebrew and black tea.

  • Would building a bunch of Blinky POVs or Grids be an excellent group activity for my classroom/summer camp/hackerspace/family of Duggars?

    Yes! We offer group discounts! Please note: while both kits are suitable for people new to soldering, the Blinky Grid has 56 LEDs, and this can take a while. Blinky POVs only have 8 LEDs.

  • Where can I talk to all the other Blinky Grid and Blinky POV fans? I really want to share my ideas and designs, or get some ideas, or show off some cool stuff I’ve done!

    We have a Blinky forum at the Wayne and Layne forums.

  • What else do I need besides the Blinky kit?

    To construct a Blinky Grid or Blinky POV, you’ll need the respective kit, a soldering iron and solder, a diagonal cutters, two AA batteries, and optionally, a hot glue gun and wire strippers. To change the message it shows, you’ll need something that can use the Blinky Programmer webpage, like a computer, or some cell phones.

  • Are the Blinky kits still awesome if I don’t use a computer right away to program it?

    Every Blinky kit comes with messages already programmed in, so you don’t need a computer right away to play with it.

  • How small is the smallest component in the Blinky SMT kits?

    The Blinky SMT kits contain an SOIC chip, and 1206 components or larger.

  • Can you tell me more about surface-mount soldering?

    Yes, yes we can.

  • Sometimes I have trouble changing the messages.

    There are a few things you can do to increase the reliability of programming:

    Turn up your brightness to full. Many displays with backlights control their brightness through pulse-width modulation (PWM), and sometimes, depending on the ambient conditions and the display, this interferes with the Blinky kits.

    Control the ambient light. Changing ambient light can overpower the signal from the screen and interfere with successful programming of the Blinky kits. Make sure the ambient light doesn’t change during programming.

    Change your browser. Seriously. Different web browsers are better or worse at accurately flashing squares. In April 2011, Chrome was both the fastest and the most successful at programming.

    Slow the transmission rate. Depending on your browser, screen, and computer, you may have to slow down the transmission speed to get successful transmission.

  • My kit doesn’t work! Can you help me?

    Most people who build the Blinky Grid or Blinky POV don’t have problems, but there are a few things that can cause problems. It’s best to start with the basics, confirming the simple things work, and work your way up to complicated things.

    Are you missing some parts from your kit? We try our best, but sometimes it happens. Contact us and we’ll get some parts in the mail.

    Did you have problems building your kit? Post in the Wayne and Layne forums.

    Are some LEDs not lighting up? Use these handy troubleshooting images to see which LEDs correspond to which pins on the chip. If you have a lot of un-lit LEDs that correspond to the same chip pin, try to resolder that chip pin to see if it improves things. These diagrams are mostly useful for the Blinky Grid, which can see some crazy LED patterns if even one chip pin is not-quite-soldered, but they are also useful to indicate which Blinky POV led corresponds to which pin on the chip.

    Are you pretty sure you built your kit right, but it doesn’t seem to work? Every Blinky kit comes pre-programmed, so as soon as you turn it on, if everything is soldered right, LEDs should turn on. Check to make sure the batteries work, and are put in the right way. Make sure that the microcontroller is in the socket the right way, with the notch on the microcontroller lining up with the mark on the board. Double check your LEDs were soldered in the right orientation. They don’t light up when they’re backwards! The “flat” of the LED should line up with the flat on the white LED outline on the board. If you still can’t get the LEDs to light, tell us what you have already done in a post on the Wayne and Layne forums and we’ll help.

    Your LEDs blink, but you can’t reprogram it? Make sure the sensors are soldered in correctly. The long leg of the sensor goes in the hole indicated with the +, and if you look inside of the sensor, there’s two pieces of metal. The larger one should be towards the middle of the board. If that’s right, try looking at the Programming FAQ section. If you still can’t reprogram it, tell us what you have already done in a post on the Wayne and Layne forums and we’ll help.

    Remember, the more details you provide about your problem, the better we can help you.