Tinkering with Raspberry (and other things)


Pi-Hicle part 3 – Big Trak autopsy and findings

This part is about the internals of the 2010 model “Big Trak”. I intend to use this toy as a base for my raspberry Pi powered vehicle. In part 1 of this series I covered the basic idea of my “Pi-Hicle” and recreated the Big Trak logic in Python. Part 2 was about displaying the programmed path on a display. Now I am lucky, because the “best girlfriend ever” gave me a real 2010 Big Trak for christmas. She even made a label, reading “Present for disassembly”. So I am doing nothing wrong here…

There are numerous resources out there about disassembling the Big Trak models, so I won’t cover this. Locate the screws and pay attention for those hidden under the grey rear bumper, then lift the top carefully and continue. David Cook from “The Robotroom” ( has extensive material about the original 198x Big Trak. For the new series of Big Traks you can find modding instructions with lots of pictures at srimech’s blog and some analysis of the circuits at the “Singleton Miller Wiki“. I am going to concentrate on my additional findings in this blog post. Nevertheless, here’s a quick overview where the screws are located. Blue arrows are “visible” screws, the red arrows point to where the additional screws are hidden under the bumper thingie:


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LED marquee – Teardown

Recently I saw an outdated (I thought) LED marquee sign in a thrift store. As these things make great tinkering objects I went inside and took a closer look. The sign looked fine and (tinkerer’s heaven) did have a serial port. Complete with RS232-to-USB adapter, remote control and power supply.

I did a quick research and decided to buy that thing. The technical data I found on the Internet were talking about up to 26 “pages” of text with 420 characters each, multiple effects and so on. Simply a must have…


The most interesting thing was, of course, the serial port. The idea is to have multiple RSS feeds on display. The news, the weather and so on. Everything controlled from a Raspberry Pi.

To understand how I can interface with the sign I will (of course) open it and take look at the insides. I thought I make this a blog entry to let you participate in my findings and (hopefully) show you something about “reverse engineering” electronic devices.
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