Difference between revisions of "Alpha 220 LED Sign"

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I am using my Kuro Pro to drive an Alpha 215/220 LED Display I happened to have one of these signs lying around.
I am using my Kuro Pro to drive an Alpha 215/220 LED Display I happened to have one of these signs lying around.

Revision as of 21:23, 9 August 2007

I am using my Kuro Pro to drive an Alpha 215/220 LED Display I happened to have one of these signs lying around.

220 Full Matrix, (Case 37.7" x 3.8" x 2.9 ") Tricolor [1]

Install a Serial Port Interface

First you are going to have to install a serial port interface. I ended up installing mine to the serial port on the bottom, but the serial port on the front is easier and the same.

I used a board from futurelec, they are dirt cheap, but take forever to get to you


ET-MINI RS232 3V.jpg

I used a Quick port RJ-12 jack to interface the sign to the serial port converter


Then I shoved the whole thing in a 2 port Quick port surface mount housing


Interface Sign to Serial Port Interface

I used a standard 6 wire telephone cable meant for a two line phone (a 4 wire one will not work) Plug one end into the sign. And one end into the Quick port RJ-12 Jack Wire the jack into the serial port board as such[2]

  • Pin 4 of the RJ12 to RS-232 RX.
  • Pin 3 of the RJ12 to RS-232 TX
  • Pin 6 of the RJ12 to RS-232 GND

Setup the serial port

You will have to adjust the serial port settings. I use a script to do this. My information came from a FAQ on using the Alpha sign with Linux[3].


# /usr/local/bin/setledsign

rm /dev/alpha
ln -s /dev/ttyS0 /dev/alpha
chmod a+rw /dev/alpha
stty 9600 -opost -ocrnl -onlcr cs7 parenb -parodd < /dev/alpha

Wake up the sign and display something on it

I use a script that I stole from the above site.


# alphamon.pl
# Script will display the contents of /tmp/textfile to the ALPHA 220C LED
# Display
# Usage
# alphamon.pl [MODE TAG] [COLORTAG]

# Get the attention of the sign
print "\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0";

# Tell the sign to print the message
$message = `cat /tmp/textfile` ;

print "\001" . "Z" . "00" . "\002" . "AA" . "\x1B" . " $ARGV[0]" . "\x1C" . "$ARGV[1]" . $message . "\004";

Alpha Sign Syntax

"\001" . "Z" . "00" . "\002" . "AA" . "\x1B" . "t". "\x1C" . "1". Hello World . "\004"
Value Meaning Code Type
\001 SOH Start of Header
Z Direct at all Signs Type Code
“00” All Signs Should Listen Sign Address
\002 Start of Text Character Start Type
A Text File Write File Type
A A File Label
\x1B ESC Start of Mode Field
t compressed text MODE TAG (see below)
\x1C color control code Control Code
1 red COLORTAG (see below)
Text Hello World Text Message</TBODY>


The key parts of this are the MODE TAG and COLORTAG, there is full documentation available for this[4] but here are the pertinant parts.

  • a - Regular smooth scroll, right to left
  • b - Appear. Centers as much of message on screen, waits, and displays rest of message in similar manner
  • c - Appear with flashing.
  • d - Auto. Randomly picks an effect for each part of the message, as opposed to the message as a whole.
  • e - Scroll up.
  • f - Scroll down from top.
  • g - Jerky scroll from right to left.
  • h - Jerky scroll from left to right.
  • i - Wipe up from bottom, covering text.
  • j - Wipe down from top, covering text.
  • k - Wipe over from right to left, character by character, not by pixels.
  • l - Wipe over from left to right, character by character.
  • m - Scroll up. Same as 'e'?
  • n - This is doing something weird based on message itself. Will have to investigate.
  • o - Auto/Random (same as 'd'?)
  • p - --> CENTER <-- Text appears at sides and squishes content in.
  • q - <-- CENTER --> Text splits in center and pushed content out.
  • r - --> COVER <-- New text covers old out to in.
  • s - <-- UNCOVER --> New text uncovers in to out.
  • t - Compressed text! Using this mode the sign tricks your eyes into seeing more characters than it is capable of physically producing. Scrolls right to left.
  • u - Fast Appear.
  • v - Medium Appear.
  • w - Maybe medium-slow appear.
  • x - Same as 'p'?
  • y - Same as 'q'?
  • z - Same as 'r'?
  • @ - The sign went blank.
  • 1 - Red
  • 2 - Green
  • 3 - Amber
  • 4 - Dim red
  • 5 - Dim green
  • 6 - Brown
  • 7 - Orange
  • 8 - Yellow
  • 9 - Rainbow 1
  • A - Rainbow 2
  • B - Color mix
  • C - Autocolor

Stock Ticker

I do use the sign for a number of other purposes, to display RSS feeds and weather forecasts. But the most complicated script is to display a live stock ticker that gets it's data from yahoo. It then colors the prices green if they are positive/up and red if they are negative/down for the day.

First you should install perl and make

apt-get install perl make

Then install the quote package [5]

wget http://www.circlemud.org/pub/jelson/quote/quote-0.05.tar.gz
tar -xvzf quote-0.05.tar.gz
cd quote-0.05
./make install

you may as well install curl and lynx so that you can use them to get content from the web later

apt-get install curl lynx

Lastly here is a shell script to display the ticker


# /usr/local/bin/leddisplay
# Stock ticker symbols

stocks="  ^DJI ^IXIC ^GSPC "

        quote $stocks | cut -d"(" -f1 |sed 's/^/\x1C9 \x7F \x1C3 /' | sed '/ -/s/:/\x1C1/g' | sed '/ +/s/:/\x1C2/g' > /tmp/textfile
        $PTE/alphamon.pl t A  > /dev/alpha


  1. 220 brochure (Pdf)
  2. Building a Data Cable for Alpha LED Scrolling Signs
  3. Using the Alpha 215C with Linux
  4. Alpha Sign Communications Protocol (pn 9708-8061)
  5. quote -- command-line stock quote display