My dad proposed a grid with shift elements along two edges.
Somehow I need to interface to a serial/parallel port and send along a few commands:
Shift 1 left
Shift 0 left
Shift 1 up
Shift 0 up
And hell, as long as I'm being lazy and fitting the commands into a byte, got plenty of room for other commands... maybe dimming commands to vary the voltage and fade things in and out?
If my display is 14 feet by 10 feet tall, and I do one pixel per 3" square, that's a resolution of 56 x 40.... I just brought that up in gimp and it's plenty of space to work with to do cheesy christmas animations.
Okay, so to refresh the display it'd take 1 + 56 + 40 + 1 = 98 commands... off, program horizontal, program vertical, on. 98 bytes (lazy encoding) = 882 bits, or 992 bits with a serial port adding a stop bit in 8-N-1 mode. With a 57.6kbps serial line I could do 60 fps, but that's overkill.... I'd hit problems with the lights fading out too slowly.
So, the real question: how do I interface hardware with a serial line? Can I buy a UART chip with a simple interface? What I think I need is some chip that gives me 9 pins: 8 data bits, and a "new byte ready" pin.
Help? (I'm such a LiveJournal question whore.)
I found these MAX RS232 parts. Maybe what I need?