At the most recent Dorkbot DC, we had a wonderful, extremely informative presentation given by Alden Hart. By day, Alden is an electrical engineer and the CTO of a technical consulting firm, by night, he messes around with LEDs and microcontrollers, especially for elaborate holiday light displays he does at his home in Northern Virginia. Alden’s talk was entitled “Practical Microcontroller LED Designs – lessons and gotchas from prototype to production.” It was a very well-presented survey of software and hardware methods he’s explored. Some of the programming was over my head, but he presented everything clearly enough that I was able to follow it conceptually, anyway. I learned a lot, about such things as different schemes for LED dimming, including something called Bit Angle Modulation (BAM), color processing conversions from HSB (Hue,Saturation, Brightness) to RGB, and the use of inductive drives for ballasting LEDs (instead of the more common use of resistors).
There was all sorts of stuff brought up that I wanted to know more about. I’m talking to Alden now about unpacking more of this information for us in some fashion (in MAKE articles, here on the blog, etc.). In the meantime, you can download Alden’s PowerPoint presentation of his talk here.