We love these two tiny LED display kits from Wayne & Layne LLC, also known as Adam Wolf and Matthew Beckler. But it’s driving us crazy that the brilliant hack they came up with for reprogramming the displays doesn’t have a snappy name yet. Please, tell us, what should we call it?

Here’s the technology: The Blinky Grid is a programmable LED matrix, 7×8, that displays any message or pixel art, and the Blinky POV is a tiny programmable persistence-of-vision LED display that you wave with your hand, creating the illusion of letters floating in air. So far, pretty normal. But when you want to reprogram the message, you don’t have to plug the Blinky into a computer — you just hold it up to your monitor or smartphone. Navigate your web browser to the Blinky Programmer website and type in your new message. The screen flashes the new message in binary and the Blinky’s onboard photosensors read the flashes — boom, you’re reprogrammed. Read more about it here.

MAKE Executive Editor Paul Spinrad and I were talking about how novel and smart (and fun) this hack is, and we think makers will love using it to program small devices. It’s open source, so anyone can build their own version. “If Adam and Matt had developed this at a big company,” Paul says, “it would probably be protected by a dozen patents.” We sell both kits in the Maker Shed, and we featured them in our MAKE Ultimate Kit Guide and our Make: Kit Reviews website. We want to keep spreading the word about this cool trick, but it needs a name. Smart Eye? Screenwashing? BlinkyVision? (Hey, that’s not so bad.)

Tell us what you think in the comments below, to be entered in a random drawing for a year’s subscription to MAKE and a brand-new MAKE T-shirt.

Keith Hammond

Keith Hammond

I’m projects editor of MAKE magazine.

  • Fred

    This idea has been around since 94 in the form of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timex_Datalink

  • Chris Cook

    Very cool, but not really new.

  • Dschinghis


  • Andrew Fineman

    I think the program should be called,


  • http://www.facebook.com/surpriseparty Tim Harris

    Yeah, cool but not new. If it used this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Eck_phreaking then we would be thinking with portals.

  • http://gravatar.com/adamwolf Adam Wolf

    It’s actually older than Timex Datalink–the BBC Micro could pick up programs from a blinking square in the corner of some broadcasts in the 80s. We thought it was a pretty good way to get a small amount of data into the kit without cables or installing software–but MAKE is right–it still doesn’t have a snappy name.

  • JimS

    Wired communication without wires is Wireless.
    Fiberoptic communication without fibers is Fiberless.

  • RussellStark

    I want one

  • kuro


  • http://twitter.com/DreamsAndLogic Tracy Hall (@DreamsAndLogic)

    Short, simple, yet 80’s tacky: BlinkLink

    • http://gravatar.com/nerdyjb John Baichtal


  • http://twitter.com/DreamsAndLogic Tracy Hall (@DreamsAndLogic)

    Goes back at least to the 70’s – even had a hack that used a VT-100 to “blink”. I’ve used the concept in a few toy developments – even for a couple toy/web integrations. For unrelated reasons, they didn’t actually see the store shelves…

  • Andrew

    The software is a BlinkyGraph, and the message itself is a BlinkyGram, of course!

  • Veloboy

    ScottyPOV (as in “beam me up”). Too Trekkie? Sounds cute tho and could have a funnny little logo to match.

  • rachel

    blinky program

  • http://pwarren.id.au Paul Warren

    I reckon: AirFlash.

  • Jordan Engler

    Flash Pass

  • AngryK9

    Call it “Flashback”

    • AngryK9

      “The BlinkyPOV is programmed by a method called FlashBack” sounds good to me :p

  • http://gravatar.com/jkcbwpnet James Kasper

    Optication, Opticator, Opticating etc depending on the usage of the technology, the name for the technology etc.
    Based on Optical + Communication of course.
    and for symbolism if you are referring to it with the original equipment (its OEM name…)

  • Kevin L



    • http://gravatar.com/naikrovek naikrovek

      Hacks -> Happens, and I think it’s brilliant.

  • Charles Haase

    How about “Blinky Mnemonic”? Paying tribute to the best part of a not-very-great movie in which the human brain is used as storage space for bits, and the password consists of 3 random images flashed on a TV screen. Just as the password is encoded in the carrier’s brain from his eyes, the program here is encoded in memory from the photo sensors!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kent.durvin Kent Durvin

    Blinkloading. It just sounds right.

    • http://twitter.com/Rbotguy Jeff Kroll (@Rbotguy)


      The website is the BlinkLoader.

  • http://gravatar.com/engineerzero engineerzero

    Hmm, I’m working on this right now for my robot. However, I’m only using a single phototransistor with no gray scale, so that the transmission rate is only 20 Hz with my ancient Vista-loaded laptop. I was thinking of using ‘light-‘ or ‘flash-‘ but ‘blinky-‘ is an idea too.

  • brandsRus

    “Wink & Link” by “Wayne & Layne LLC”

  • http://gravatar.com/naikrovek naikrovek

    This is like a one-dimensional barcode.

  • GCF

    Blinky see, Blinky do.

    Free-space optical programming (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free-space_optical_communication)
    Aldis LED (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldis_lamp)

  • rocketguy1701

    Well, there’s always “screendump”, but I’m not sure that’s what we’re looking for.



    Squarebeam (assuming the flashing area is square).

    Screenbang (i.e. bitbanging with a screen)
    Optibang? Hmm… might be misinterpreted. Moving on.

    Flashbang! (now if we can prevent confusion with riot control ordinance, we’re good to go!)

  • Steve Langstaff


  • Joshua

    This method of programing reminds me of the blipverts from the show max headroom. So… Blip coding?

  • http://vsdfsdflkjhdfjdsdgeryrefsw.com tv amr

    I definitely knew about almost all of this, but with that said, I still found it helpful. Nice work!

  • http://www.toasterbotics.blogspot.com Thatcher

    FlashLight! Because you’re writing the program into the flash memory, with light.

  • Sean

    Link & Blink

  • [email protected]


  • http://gravatar.com/igrowbeards igrowbeardsJustin


  • Mike

    How about simply The POD (Programmable Optical Device)?

  • anclotebrewing


  • Bob Marney


  • http://gravatar.com/mauiac mauiac

    As a hommage to the Timex Datalink watches I think the procedure should be called LTL (ListenToLight)

  • http://gravatar.com/alandove Alan Dove

    How about FlashUp? BlinkSync?

  • http://www.omnom.cc Louis Leblanc

    I’ve been working on a similar system for a watch on and off since september. Really nice technology, fairly simple to put in place. If I had my say in it, I’d call it BlinkyLink.

    For those interested, here are a couple of links I found useful for my own setup:

    This is a guy who essentially made it happen from scratch. With some help to make a website from some people in the HackADay community.
    Have a look at page two, he’s sharing all the code (both for a PIC and for the website).

    This is a closed sourced microcontroller for wearable applications. It’s kind of cool but seems to be very limited.

  • doctorclark

    Li-Fi !

    High fidelity for sound: Hi-Fi
    Wireless fidelity for radio. Wi-Fi ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wi-Fi#The_name_Wi-Fi )
    Visible light communication: Li-Fi

    (Thought I coined it…then I googled it: https://www.google.com/search?q=li-fi and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visible_light_communication)

  • Loth

    why not hypnoblink or blink hypnosis?

    • Loth

      or blinknosis?

  • [email protected]

    Here a few…
    Retinex, Retinator, Retflash (er), Brainflash, Flash-o-matic, Blink-o-mat,
    Retiflash TM, Ret-o-mat, Retinotronic …


  • roliop




    The Terminalator


    RS-2-3-Char-char char


  • Anonymous

    I say call it sparkler vision since thats where most kids learn about this phenomenon :)

  • Bryan

    Aniomagic wearable led system use a webpage strobe programming also.

    Link to the programmer http://www.aniomagic.com/program/?hl=en

    Idea, you could use manchester encoding to make it work without a dedicated clock line(though software would have to decode the manchester encoding).

  • Bob Marney

    Well? Any final result?

  • Pingback: MAKE | New in the Maker Shed: Blinky SMT POV and Grid Kits()

  • Ron Woodward

    The flashing screen reminds me of a strobe light.
    So strobe programming or Strobe-graming.
    The blinky writes (gram from the latin graphein “to write” )
    And it blinks as a flashing strobe but as it blinks it writes
    so it Strobe grams. The message it writes out is a Strobegram

  • http://saltmangotree.net/2012/03/rockstar-sweeps-ficci-frames-awards/ video wordpress

    *This really answered my problem, thank you!