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The nice thing about the Internet of Things is that it can take care of a whole lot of things online. All you need to do is whip out your phone, tablet, laptop or whatever, connect to the server and it can give you all the information about all your sensors you want. This, however requires you to whip out your laptop or phone and actively start an app or load a webpage. What if all you want is to take a quick look to see if the room indeed is as cold as you feel it is?

I had a problem like this. For longer-term things, like the weather predictions and the outside air quality, my electronic ink display still worked like a charm. For quicker changing things, like the name of the music that's playing or maybe even the current time, it was too slow. I needed a display that could react quicker to show the more dynamic bits of information I was interested in.

Ofcourse, it would be very easy to take a tablet or a Raspberry Pi plus a LCD, install a webbrowser and point it at a statistics page, but where's the fun in that? We nowadays have enough LCDs around and although IPS panels nowadays are pretty good, the viewing angle still can be a problem. There's also the aesthetics bits: LCDs are everywhere nowadays, and I wanted something different.

I decided to scout TaoBao (the Chinese eBay equivalent) for interesting alternatives, and I found these ones:

These are pretty nice 256x64 dot-matrix VFDs, and with a low price of only RMB40 ($6) a piece. They were second hand, but I decided that for that price I could at least buy a few and see what the quality was. I ordered four, and a few days later they came in.

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