All posts for the month March, 2014

The first thing I had to do when designing my Pip-Boy was choose an appropriately-sized screen that I could connect to my Raspberry Pi.

I chose this screen from the marvelous Adafruit – it was about the right size, and it takes a composite-video input:

This screen and its driver-board were probably originally intended for use in an in-car monitor, for a reversing-camera or maybe for a portable DVD-player – it requires 6-12v of power to run, but I reckoned I ought to be able to supply that from some batteries.

The screen’s resolution is quite low (320×240) but that’s just fine for my purposes.

While waiting for that to arrive from far-off New York, I then searched for a rectangular lens to lay over the screen, to give the effect of a curved monitor.

After failing trying to find a cheap separate lens with the right shape and aspect-ratio, I ended up doing what a previous builder had done, and bought likely-looking cheap second-hand slide-viewer from Ebay, which I dismantled.

Photax Solar slide-viewer

Photax Solar slide-viewer

This slide-viewer contains two chunky plastic lenses, and the largest of the lenses was just the right size and shape for what I needed:

A scale image of the in-game Pip-Boy 3000 - plus models of a Raspberry Pi, Adafruit 3.5" monitor, and the lens I took from a slideviewer

A scale image of the in-game Pip-Boy 3000 – plus models of a Raspberry Pi, Adafruit 3.5″ monitor, and the lens I’d taken from a slideviewer

I was pleased to find that I could slot the screen into the slide-viewer where its smaller interior lens originally sat – making a delightful little CRT-looking monitor!

In order to get the RasPi to output to the full screen (i.e. no black borders) I edited its config.txt file with the following lines uncommented/changed:


That combination of overscan/disabled options might seem a bit weird, but it allowed me to fill the whole of the TFT.

You’ll see that I’ve set it to use twice the screen’s resolution – I found that PyGame (which I’m using to draw the UI graphics) didn’t work right when the system-resolution was lower than 640×480.

The console-text and Xwindows are still just about readable at that resolution, if you squint carefully!

Coming up… how I modified this 6-12v screen to work on the RasPi’s 5v power-supply!

As I mentioned in this blog’s first post, a few years ago I built myself a replica of the Pip-Boy 3000 from the game Fallout 3 – mainly crafted from card, glue, expanding-foam and spraypaint:

My older non-working Pip-Boy 3000

I used my Iphone for the screen, which allowed me to simulate the in-game interface by playing videos – animated scanlines and background humming noise added to the authenticity.

The screen was flat – unlike the slightly-rounded CRT of the in-game model…  plus the prop was about 20% bigger than the “real” Pip-Boy, because I’d scaled the model to fit the phone.

Oh well, nothing I could do about that – even if I could find a super-thin CRT, I don’t think that’d fit into my limited budget, and I wouldn’t want to strap it too my arm!

Flash forward a few years… I saw a link to Zachariah Perry’s Pip-Boy build, showing off a cleverly-faked curved screen – ahah, very clever!

His version, based on a cast of the official Limited Edition alarm-clock, has a screen taken from a digital photo-frame, seen through a rectangular lens taken from an old slide-viewer.

This got me thinking… I was waiting on the 3D printer I had ordered/funded last year, so I might as well start reworking my old Pip-Boy 3D model, and get it ready for printing in plastic…

But this time I’d do it to a more accurate scale, and build it around a nice fake-CRT screen.

Since I still expected to wait a while until the printer was ready, I would concentrate on working on the internals first, in order to work out exactly how much I needed to fit inside.

I now had experience with the Raspberry Pi and Teensy boards, and had seen pictures of Ryan Grieve’s Raspberry Pipboy build, so I thought I might as well make this a fully-working prop too!

Ok, that’s where I started out, many months ago – now I can get onto writing some more detailed and (hopefully) useful posts: I’ve learned a lot about electronics and stuff while working on this project, and hope to share some of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way!

Pip-Boy 3000 icon

(BTW, my Makibox is currently en-route, via a slow boat from Hong Kong;  Soon, sooon…)