A Failed Hack: Boogie Board LCD Writing Tablet

Boogie Board Internals

Sometimes a project is just not meant to be.  I picked up a Boogie Board LCD Writing Tablet when they went on sale to satiate my gadget addiction.  I didn’t expect it to be hackable, as it is little more than a glorified chalkboard, but I figured I’d give it a try.  My goal was to be able to lighten what was drawn on the screen, rather than erase it completely, to allow for the possibility of greyscale, or greenscale in this case.

I cracked it open (literally, I didn’t realize there were screws under the sticker), and found a more complex machine than I expected.  The brains of the tablet are an MSP430F2001, one of the cheaper microcontrollers in TI’s MSP430 lineup.  The header on the left hooks up to the programming pins, so anyone out there with a GoodFET might want to take a look at writing new firmware for it.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have one.

The waveform below captured between the two big pads, TP1 and TP2, shows how the cholesteric LCD refreshes.  On pressing the button, the power circuitry on the left generates 36v for 400ms, followed by 18v for 800ms, and feeds it to the multiplexer on the right.  The MSP430 toggles the input pins on the mux to switch that input voltage back and forth between the two pads in 150ms pulses, flashing the screen green and black and clearing what was drawn on it.

Boogie Board Waveform

Unfortunately, while lifting the PCB up to see the traces on the bottom, I snapped one of the connections to the LCD, rendering the tablet useless.  Hopefully someone can pick up where I left off, modify the firmware on the MSP430, and see if its possible to make the LCD go only partway cleared by using shorter or fewer pulses.

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34 Responses to “A Failed Hack: Boogie Board LCD Writing Tablet”

  • Have you heard of any successful attempts to hack the boogie board?

  • What type/model of battery is that?

  • Would it be possible to save your writing and sketches, if some external memory could be attached?

    • It doesn’t have a touch screen. This type of display gets lighter when u push on it. It only uses electricity to clear it. No memory, no input. I would LOVE to see one of these screens hooked to a PIC micro TBH.

  • Does the battery look like it can easily be replaced

  • Is the cr2032 battery have the metal tabs solder to it? Or can u pop out the battery easily?

  • Just opened mine up, have a launchpad, so i’m going to see if the JTAG emulator on the launchpad will work with this chip. If it does, I will get the firmware and decompile, hopefully getting some info on how this thing works, since mine seems to have cut out the multiplexer for what looks like a few transistors.

  • Just a thought… could we extract data from the internal antenna, run the signal to arduino, then bluetooth that to a tablet device or smartphone. Hence, we can utilize boogie board note taking feature and review our notes on our device more readily.

  • Anyone able to dump the firmware off it?

  • For anyone who needs to replace the battery on one these, it took me roughly 5 minutes. Here are the steps…

    1. Unscrew the 4 screws found on the back of the tablet head (Screws are silver)

    2. Pop open the face cover where the “Erase” button is found, there should be 4 small plastic clips on the back that clips it into place. Just pry them gently apart and it should pop out. You will then notice that the battery is wrapped in yellow tape with 2 soldered/welded clips found on each side of the battery.

    3. The battery needed on mine was a CR 2025 (These do not have clips nor any soldering/welding, the battery is sold naked. However the battery in the boogie board tablet IS soldered onto the clips attached to the tablet.) “How do you take the battery out if the clips have been soldered/welded onto the battery?” EASY, take a small flat head screw driver and work it with a jerking motion in between the clips and the battery to separate them. It took me about 10 secs for each clip.

    4. After you’ve removed the battery from the clips, you will notice that the clips are most likely and almost inevitably trashed…right? Yes but we can fix that! Grab your useful Flat Nose Head Plier and ‘plier’ back into shape (flat/straight).

    5. Place the battery in between the clips with the rough side up and place the face cover back into place, clip it in and screw the screws back into place. This is what I did and the battery stayed in place. You can also use tape or glue to further strengthen the battery in place but I found it unnecessary.

    Good luck!

  • Hi. I bought the pink plastic boogie board for my daughter 4yr ago. And the battery ran out like 2yr ago. What I did just now after reading your post is I peeled out the top sticker with a cutter carefully cutting the double tape and then took out the 4 tiny screws. I also pried the weldedbattery tabs on top and on the bottom and replace it with a cr2025 panasonic button batt. I used hot glue applied on the negative non contact side to keep it stuck to th PCB and then applied a dab of hot glue on the top part to keep it in place with the cover. It works.thanks for your post.

  • I was given such a gadget for the New Year. Unfortunately, the Erase button did not work. I found four screws under the tape, unscrewed them and found the printed circuit board with a battery soldered on it. I had tested the battery and found that it was in good condition, the button also worked, but erase did not work. I had attached an electrolytic capacitor of 3300 uF in parallel with the battery and the erase function had started to work. (But it still did not work without the capacitor.) I had prepared the soldering iron to remove the battery and to try another one, but suddenly the button had responded without a capacitor! I do not know what had happened with the circuit, but maybe this experience will be helpful for someone.
    Thanks for your post, I have never thought that this simple device is based on a microcontroller!

    • sounds like what happened to me. The erase wouldn’t work. I pried off the connectors with a kitchen knife to remove the battery. I reinserted the battery and manually holding it down I pressed the erase button and it worked! I taped everything down and put back the plate, screws and sticker plate. Even added a tether and a stylus holder for my 4y.o. Lol.

    • “Thanks for your post, I have never thought that this simple device is based on a microcontroller!”

      Now a days people use micro-controllers to flash LEDs, so I guess I’m not entirely surprised.

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  • new Boogie Board 8.5-Inch LCD Writing Tablet in various colors now available on Amazon for $17.

  • hi admin nice to meet you here nice to meet you thanks keep it up.

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