August 22nd, 2001 - I've decided to give these old pages a new home. The content is old, but perhaps it is still useful.

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Last Update: Friday, August 31, 2001 8:03 PM

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2/13/01 I am still getting occasional e-mail concerning this page. Hopefully I can get around to revamping my web site and updating these pages some day. In the meantime, Walter suggested this link for downloading Beta-Brite manuals direct from AMS-I.

7/20/99 Some spec details (betaspec.txt) are now available here, and news has it that AMS may be offering a hobbyist spec package in the near future.

1/20/99 Be sure to follow the links from Walt's pages to his new Beta Brite page for news on how hackers can get the specs affordably from PaceSetter.

1/14/99 I have one of the new Beta-Brite models. The LED panel is the same size but the casing is much smaller (and metal). Power supply has a longer cord. Remote is tiny and missing a bunch of keys -- seems to be a real pain to program using the new remote (no punctuation, for instance, requiring toggling through the symbols with one button). I hate the remote but love the physical design. New animations and fonts are available. Very good job except for the remote. More soon. Oh, I am talking to the sign just fine under OS-9 now but still am trying to get memory management working. It appears sending any memory "write" command erases all the memory. More experimenting is necessary.

I have been sent Linux drivers for sending text messages to the Beta-Brite sign. Another fellow contacted me and is working on figuring out the protocol on his own. And, the big news is that someone from AMSI actually wrote me today and gave me some details into the protocol! Talk about customer service! I will check into this information and see what I can make available in the near future. Until then, hang in there! It looks like we won't have to run out and buy Pro-Lite signs just to be able to use them outside of canned Windows software!

I now am in contact with about four others who are also trying to figure out how to get the Beta-Brite talking via non-Windows computers. I have checked out the AlphaNet DEMO software at Pace Setter and it appears to be an ancient Windows 3.1 program and, while useful, isn't the most elegant program around. I wonder if they'd be interested in an all-new fancier version for Windows 95/98/NT and possibly MacOS too? I may ask them. Anyway, hello to Timothy (attempting to control the sign via Linux), John (doing a great job figuring out the protocol manually), Ron (trying to program it without the remote), Ken (another hobbyist looking for specs), Russel (looking for cable info and protocol specs), Lonnie (wanting to use one in church), Neils (another spec searcher), Seth (author of Linux software to display Yahoo search results on the sign), and David (who couldn't justify the $75 spec price he was quoted). Did I miss anyone? Gee, looks like more than four people after all. More later!

I am looking for details on programming the Beta-Brite LED Sign which you can commonly find at Sam's Club. If you have any information on this sign, please let me know. Thanks!

The story so far...

For years I'd wanted one of those neat scrolling LED signs. However, I could never quite justify owning one. Perhaps waiting has been a good thing since prices have lowered and technology has increased. In August I finally took the plunge and picked up a Beta-Brite from the local Sam's Club for about $150. I intended to use it at a computer show I would be attending, and it worked quite nicely for that. Unfortunately, it was quite a pain to program using the IR remote control. I was eager to hook it into a computer and see what other features I could unlock.

Since I had no plans to run the software from a WinTel PeeCee, I wrote to the distributor and asked if they had any programming specs. Their web site already had many tech notes on the unit, including pinouts for the RS232 port. Unfortunately, they were not at all eager to give out any free protocol information and instead referred me to PaceSetter.

PaceSetter informed me that the programming document, complete with adapters and cables, would be $150. (I later was told without the cables the docs themselves were $125.) The price was due to them offering full support for application developers planning to use this unit. Since I didn't intend to need $150 worth of support, and didn't intend to spend as much money on the docs as I did on the sign itself, I went to the net. My research has shown there are several other brands of similar featured LED signs (some with more storage memory and graphics support) that are openly documented. So, if I am unable to dig up specs for the Beta-Brite I'll spend the $150 on a new sign from a company that is a bit more open with their protocol.

This web page may not even be necessary since I have already found some leads to sites which apparently have the specs published. I assume they either snooped the serial transmissions and figured it out. Hopefully I'll be talking to the sign via my computer shortly.

This site, therefore, exists to prevent me from reinventing the wheel. If you have paid for the documentation, by all means DO NOT give this information out. As much as I hate the fact that the docs cost as much as the hardware, I don't want to infringe on the business that PaceSetter has supporting those with the funds to buy such docs. If, however, you have any details you have come about on your own, please drop me a note.

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