Image Viewer

Possibly setting a record for documentation delay, I am finally posting about this thing after about five years.  In fact, it’s been so long since I built it that I don’t actually recall when it was built.  Sometime after the Christmas of 2007, I think, as that seems to be when the digital photo viewer keychains I based this on came out. Anyhow, steampunk digital picture frame. Keep going below for details.  

This device started out as one of these:

In the week or two after their big Christmas popularity, they were selling for a few dollars on clearance. The novelty of digital photo frames was at it’s peak when these came out, and I was well enthralled by the idea. I bought a few of these cheap-o miniturized ones, and waited for inspiration to strike. Eventually I started rummaging through my junk bins and came up with the components to build this:

It is pretty rough and not well thought out by my standards today, but there are some things about it I’m still rather fond of. Like a lot of my early stuff, the Image Viewer is very much an assemblage–there are hardly any parts of it that were scratch built. I did a pretty poor job of fastening as well, with JB-Weld and solder doing most of the work. The black goop visible on top was intentional, however, inspired by an antique I had seen in a junk shop once repaired similarly with what seemed to be tar. That was the aesthetic I was going for with this: a weird thing on a dusty shelf in an antique store that no one knows anything about.

Functionally  there isn’t a whole lot that’s been changed from the keychain. JPEGs are converted to 128×128 via proprietary Windows software and downloaded via USB. As seen in the video above, the firmware on the device then let’s you flip through the photos manually or on an automatic slideshow.

Though the Image Viewer is intended to sit on a shelf, I left the LiPo battery intact (inside the brass cone) for unplugged use. When receiving power over USB for charging, the gear on the lower left of the screen spins quietly thanks to a small DC motor that I’m giving just enough current to spin. Making things like this move without modern motor noise is always a challenge.

To further the illusion of clockwork, I replaced the mushy keys of the keychain with a twist knob. The knurled wheel on the dome in back is surrounded by three microswitches inside the dome. One is in line with the shaft and clicks when the knob is pushed in, while the other two are on either side of a cam that clicks when twisted slightly clockwise or counter. This acts like arrow and “enter” keys for navigating the firmware menu and advancing the photos.

As an added bit of fun, I separated the front polarizing filter from the LCD module and mounted it a distance in front. Now as if by magic, the screen is totally white unless you’re looking head-on with the filter in line.

Component Breakdown:
Marble Base w/ Feet: Base of cheesy 1970s decorative scales
Brass Cone: Part of candle holder
Lens Ring: Unidentified brass piece from AS&S
Lens: Misc. convex glass lens
Top Piece: Corner from steamer trunk
Back Dome: Top of pepper grinder
Published in: on May 21, 2013 at 8:21 am  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. That’s awesome!

  2. Nice, have you considered using two to make a steampunk stereoscope?

    • I have, actually! I have ideas for something along those lines backburnered pending the finding of just the right display parts. The frame used here is too low-res, and looks pretty bad close-up like that. There are lots of options out now, but I’m just waiting for the right bargain/inspiration.


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