Split Flap Displays Spark Rush of Nostalgia

Article By : Max Maxfield

This modern incarnation of a vintage display technology is making its mark in myriad locations, including retro art installations.

All I can say is that my chum Rick Curl has a lot to answer for, because he keeps on introducing me to all sorts of cool companies whose technologies I would love to incorporate into my hobby projects.

Just today, for example, Rick sent me an email saying, “I just read an article in Popular Mechanics magazine about a company called Oat Foundry. These guys are doing all sorts of cool stuff, including something called Split Flap displays, so of course, I thought of you.”

It probably will come as no surprise to you that I immediately bounced over to the Oat Foundry website to take a look. The first thing that we see on the “About” page is “We Build Cool Stuff,” so it must be true.

The guys at Oat Foundry do seem to have a lot of interesting projects on the go, but Rick was correct in surmising that the one that would tickle my fancy would be their Split Flap Displays, as seen in this video.

As it says on their site, “Each Oat Foundry Split Flap Display contains an array of individual modules. Each module comes with 50 unique character flaps and its own driving motor.”

I remember this sort of display being used on railway stations when I was a kid. Humongous versions of these little scamps were also used at airports. I don’t know about you, but I think that there’s something delightfully retro about these displays. Also, just the thought of the sound of them clicking over is making me feel all nostalgic.

I must admit that I’d only considered this form of display with regard to presenting alphanumeric characters and symbols, but of course, you can use them for so much more. On the Art Installation page, for example, I ran across the following image:

Split Flap Displays as Art Installations
(Source: OatFoundry.com)

OMG! I would LOVE to see one of these bodacious beauties in action. Now, my mind is reeling with thoughts about all of the different things that I could do with these little rascals. How about you? Could you be tempted to create a thing of beauty using an array of these Split Flap modules? If so, what would you build?

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