First off, they have provided a live stream of the sign for the entire Internet to enjoy.
From all the times I have checked it out, it has been a clock. Too bad Flava Flav is a bit too scrawny to hold that sucker up. If he could, I still doubt he or most people could also carry around enough mobile electricity to make it worthwhile. Maybe if we are lucky, the hacklab kids will see this and make it a reality. Yes hacklab, I’m challenging you.
Second, Andrew Kilpatrick has provided a wonderful technical writeup of the “getting it to work” process. This project is fairly impressive, not because they built out a sign that uses 3,072 LEDs, but because they also had to do a bit of reverse engineering to do so. The sign was built from a number of surplus LED sign panels. This was a good idea as designing and assembling something that size would be fairly expensive, error prone and incredibly time consuming. No matter how much you love playing with electronics, be it for work or hobby, soldering 3,000+ LEDs WILL get tedious and boring. Why re-invent the wheel when you can benefit from someone else’s hard work? Especially when that someone may have been a small team of engineers that over-designed and mass produced something that fits your needs. Even if you have no technical documentation and only your wits and some basic electronics gear to figure it all out, its worth it in the end as you’ve learned something.
After poking at the boards over a weekend they found it required only four control pins and had some pretty neat control options. They ended up using the hacker’s defacto microcontroller (Arduino) and some clever code to light up the daisy chained panels. You read that right, they were designed from the start to be plugged into each other.
I would go into more detail, but like I said earlier, Andrew has done a wonderful writeup of all the details you could want. He and his crew definitely deserve the spotlight. So go check out the writeup already!