BOB-4 is Decade's fourth-generation low-cost video information overlay module, now available in a rugged 2x20 header connector format with industrial temperature specs as well as the original 30-pin SIMM format. BOB-4 lets your microcontroller or PC display text and vector graphics on standard TV monitors. With large user-definable character sets, BOB-4 also supports bitmap graphics and multiple languages. BOB-4 generates background video on-board, or automatically genlocks to your video source and superimposes characters over the image. Printable characters and commands drive BOB-4 through fast SPI or RS-232 style data links, much like a serial terminal or printer. BOB-4 links directly to most microcontroller chips and modules. NTSC and PAL video standards are supported in a single hardware version.
Here's a screen grab showing some of BOB-4's display capabilities. And one from a customer UAV application: DragonOSD
Video clips from real-life customer applications: [Datsun 240Z] [DragonOSD Autopilot] [GPS in Antarctica] [On-Screen Compass]
Also see SIS, a low-cost Demo/Developer board, and BUD, our compact Smart Application Board for BOB-4H!
Visit our Order page for small-quantity price information on all versions. Manufacturing quantities (10 or more) qualify for discount pricing. Inquire for details.
- Simple hookup; requires just 5VDC, serial data, video I/O
- Immediately prints plain ASCII text in default configuration
- High display density; up to 480x240 (NTSC) or 480x288 (PAL)
- Arbitrary custom font sizes and proportional font support
- Bitmap graphics and vector graphics capability
- Off-board memory expansion for huge fonts & bitmap graphics
- Industry-standard ANSI command protocol (ECMA-048)
- Automatic vertical scrolling
- Text crawl (single-line smooth horizontal scroll)
- Mirror-image reverse text display capability
- VBI (vertical blanking interval) data insertion
- Async (RS-232 style) and SPI control ports
- Automatic video mode control (local/genlock)
- Customer-configurable video standard (NTSC or PAL)
- Stand-alone operation for video source ID, target reticle, etc.
- Software-controlled digital logic outputs (5)
- Analog voltage inputs (two 10-bit ADC channels; BOB-4H only)
- Consumes only 1/2W at 5VDC
- Lead-free and nominally RoHS-compliant
- Designed for maximum production lifetime; no OSD chips!
- Industrial operating temperature range is standard; -40 to +85C
- Accurate 75-ohm video terminations and unity gain
- Handles S-Video (Y/C video) with simple external circuit
- Firmware can be upgraded in the field via PC connection
- Independent debug serial port assists in application development
The start-up display (boot script) memory can be loaded with commands as well as printable data, which allows BOB-4's operating modes to be semi-permanently configured for special applications. In some cases, this feature eliminates the need for a host computer or smart interface device. Read the BOB-4 Application Guide for additional details, or contact Decade Engineering to discuss your requirements.
The BOB-4 Conscriptor PC program is provided without charge to assist customers with BOB-4 configuration. See download link below. The BOB-4 Conscriptor runs on Windows XP machines and offers these conveniences:
- Font editing, importing, file management
- Bitmap graphics importing and editing
- Boot script editing and file management
- BOB-4 configuration memory management
- BOB-4 firmware upgrade utility
- One-click BOB-4 module configuration
Design News magazine selected Decade Engineering's BOB-4HGI module as "best in category" and a Finalist in their 2008 Best Products contest! BOB-4HGI is the only video overlay module to combine such rugged mechanical characteristics with a full -40 to +85C industrial operating temperature specification.
BOB-4 Quick-Start Guide (PDF): Gets you up and running quickly. Also see our SIS developer board.
BOB-4 Application Guide & Specifications (PDF): This is the primary source for BOB-4 technical information!
BOB-4 Power Supply Application Note (PDF): How to satisfy BOB-4's power supply requirements, in detail.
BOB-4 Conscriptor (EXE): PC (XP) program to manage BOB-4 fonts, configuration, boot scripts, and firmware upgrades. Now includes a simple serial communication terminal emulator. Run the installer twice to replace an older version.
UTF-8 Encoder (EXE): A simple PC utility program that converts hex or decimal character codes into UTF-8 codes.
C Code Example (TXT): Includes a couple of hints on writing C programs to control BOB-4.
Solar Car Example (TXT): Fragments of the PIC18F C program from the University of Michigan's 2007 Solar Car project.
PBASIC Fonts Example (TXT): For Parallax BASIC Stamp II (BS2). Thanks to John Smith at Milford Instruments (UK dealer).
PBASIC Graphics Example (TXT): Also for Parallax BS2. Thanks again to John Smith at Milford Instruments!
ASCII Demo File (TXT): This file was used to create the demo display linked near the top of this page. Transmit to BOB-4 with a terminal program, or store it in a boot script. Your browser might have trouble displaying this file due to embedded control codes.
Smart Encoder Interface (PDF): SEI implements a quadrature distance encoder to video interface for BOB-4 in an Atmel AVR series microcontroller. Operator controls are provided. Demonstrates BOB-4 control through the SPI port. Here's the AVR-GCC Source Code (ZIP) and Object Code (ZIP) for SEI.
DragonOSD is an advanced First-Person-View (FPV) video information overlay system for radio-controlled aircraft that takes full advantage of GPS technology and controls BOB-4 through the SPI port. This is an open-source project; here's the DragonOSD source code (ZIP).
See the BUD page for additional hardware design and application programming examples.
Where can I get the latest firmware upgrade file?
You must email a request to Decade Engineering for this item. Please use the feedback link below.
Is BOB-4 a direct replacement for BOB-3?
BOB-4S (SIMM version) offers limited hardware compatibility with BOB-3. It mounts in the same 30-pin SIMM socket and uses the same pins for basic functions, except power supply. If the BOB-3 socket has +5V power applied to pin 3, and nothing more than basic video and data I/O connections are deployed, then BOB-4 may be directly compatible. In all BOB-3 applications where extended functionality has been implemented, it is necessary to conduct a careful review of pinout differences. Application software compatibility is also limited. A subset of BOB-3 commands is provided in BOB-4, but most customers should revise BOB-3 application programs to use the new BOB-4 command set.
Will BOB-4 work with my data source?
BOB modules behave much like printers or dumb serial terminals. It's often necessary to insert a smart interface between the data source and BOB module, because raw data rarely produces the desired display formatting. The smart interface could be a microcontroller module or chip mounted alongside the BOB-4 socket on your host board. The choice of interface hardware is often determined by preferences of the person who will write the data processing program or 'print driver' for BOB-4. Many factors can influence the decision, including cost, serial communication support, CPU speed, development tools, package size & weight, power requirements, etc. Sometimes it's reasonable to reprogram the microprocessor in your data source, and sometimes BOB-4 can be configured to handle the existing data stream directly. BOB-4 is configured via register settings, a boot script, and custom fonts, all saved in semi-permanent flash memory. Decade Engineering supplies a PC program to simplify the configuration process, but it's also possible to configure BOB-4 through direct use of its command protocol. See BOB-4 Conscriptor link above.