Sunday, August 21, 2011

Frankenkindle prototype demo

That's right, it's alive!

The Frankenkindle is alive, and fully functional.  The 5-way keypad (up, down, left, right and center) and 'Home' have all been implemented with a substitute keyboard.  (Also,if you turn up your speakers you may hear Queen playing Bohemian Rhapsody in the background - don't say I never give you anything.)

Functionally it's complete, but there's still a fair bit to be done to make it more robust.  The Kindle itself needs to be semi-permanently mounted to the front panel rather than just resting on two wood screws.  The circular interface board along with the flat cable connecting it to the Kindle are both quite fragile and will need to be covered.  Finally, the cables will need to be routed in a more organized fashion.

Here are some pictures to better illustrate what you saw in the video.  Keep in mind that this is a prototype if ever there was one.  It's not pretty, but it doesn't have to be.  It's functional.  Once my sister has a chance to play with it I'll be able to take some good notes on what works and what doesn't, and fold them into the next revision.  Right now I'm designing for what I think she'll need.  The only way to find out if it's useful to her is to actually turn her loose on it and watch what happens.

 The disassembled Frankenkindle.  Front panel, Kindle, and control board are all visible.

Side view, showing the circular board used to interface the main control board
to the Kindle's keyboard input.

 Rear view, showing the control board.  

Power is supplied from a 5V "wall wart" style power supply and the 9-pin serial cable is used to provide an  easy quick-disconnect for the new front panel buttons.

Closeup of the main control board.  

5V DC power is fed through the black cable and used to power the Teensy controller directly (the long green board with USB connector).  It is then fed through a series of diodes to provide a sexy red power LED and stable 3.3V for the multiplexers (actually closer to 3.5V, but who's counting?).  The multiplexers are the surface-mount chips on the red breakout boards.  The bank of resistors in the upper right form a series of voltage dividers, useful for dropping the 5V control signals from the Teensy into 3.3V signals suitable for use with the multiplexers.

And there you have it!  More pictures will be posted to document progress on the enclosure itself.  Also, be on the lookout for a full bill of materials (BOM) and more formal documentation.

Thanks for reading! 


  1. Very impressive! For the mounting of the Kindle, you might try using velcro. I've bought adhesive velcro strips at Michael's and use that to anchor my Kindle in the simple case I use to carry it around.

  2. Hi Glenn! This is just awesome. Thanks very much for sharing your work with us. Kindest regards.

  3. @Joel: Thanks! Velcro isn't a bad idea at all. Problem is the back of the Kindle is removed to gain access to the keyboard connector, which means all the circuitry is exposed and I'd be hesitant to attach velcro to it. The prototype will probably just use a plexiglas shield. Later revs will need a more elegant solution...

  4. @Wan Link Sniper: Thanks for the kind words!

  5. This is fantastic. I keep searching for a problem that my engineering can be applied to.... the kind of solution that can make someones life a little bit better.

    You have certainly accomplished this!

  6. bottom half looks like a v-tech v-reader

  7. @goodereader: Good eye. I showed the guts of the V.Reader in one of the earlier posts - check it out if you ever wondered what it looked like on the inside:

  8. Hi Glen...i'm a reporter looking to write about the Frankenkindle. Do you have a few moments to talk with me? 310-550-5107

  9. Hi, Glen. Congratulations for your initiative. It answers to a real, important problem. I launched a similar one some months ago, although it didn't pass the definition phase for now:

    I would like to suggest you to pay attention to the four basic lines of PasaPagina:

    - The solution should be DIY (Do It Yourself), offering a complete set of assembly instructions and, if necessary, the software that supports it.
    - It should be as economical as possible, in order to benefit the maximum number of people.
    - It should be as simple as possible, so that the maximum number of people could assemble it following the instructions.
    - It should not jeopardize the integrity of the ereader, which in principle rules out dismantling, welding ... all operations which may not be going back and scare users.

    I would like to discuss it with you in detail. A DIY accesibility solution for ereaders would be great for people with physical disability all around the world.

    Best regards,


  10. Just having a remote cable that does "next page" would make me happy. Looking forward to the BOM and documentation (hint).

  11. @cgrantski
    I completed such a hack for my disabled brother this Christmas.
    I pulled apart an original nook then removed the ribbon cable for one side of the forward/back buttons (both buttons are either side of the screen).
    Into the ribbon cable socket, I carefully positioned 2 wires to the forward button contacts (determined by following the trace in the ribbon cable to the actual switches), closed the locking device on the socket and taped the cables in place.
    I then drilled out the top of the device (could also use the speaker ports for a less destructive way to get external access) to break out the cable from the enclosure. I added a momentary switch to the end of the cable and it works like a charm.
    I imagine that many readers with hardware forward/back switches could be modded in a similar fashion, just do your research looking at teardown photos/video to ensure that the buttons are connected by ribbon cable.
    The Original Nook is "easily" disassembled and hacked in this way though.