Replicating Penny’s computer book from Inspector Gadget
The Inspector Gadget cartoon was, naturally, full of fun gadgets. Even the eponymous inspector’s niece, Penny, got some nifty gizmos. One notable example was her computer book, which was exactly what it sounds like. To pay homage to the classic cartoon, Becky Stern recreated Penny’s computer book using a pair of Arduino boards.
It isn’t clear exactly which functions Penny’s computer book possesses within the canon of the Inspector Gadget cartoon, so Stern got a chance to exercise her own creativity. She referenced the cartoon to get a sense of the device’s aesthetics, design, and some of its capability. That helped her define the look of the replica device and how it should act. She determined that it should have several buttons (including a grid of illuminated buttons), a small screen on one side, and a big screen on the other side — all inside of a book.
Stern used two different boards to bring the device to life: an Arduino Nano ESP32 and a Mega 2560. The former monitors some of the buttons and controls the LCD panel on the left side. The latter monitors the green buttons and controls their LEDs. It also drives the LEDs behind the right “screen,” which is actually a static semi-transparent image. The LEDs light up in sequence to create an effect similar to what we see in the cartoon.
Most of the buttons lack actual functions, but Stern did add some interactivity by utilizing the Nano ESP32. The board hosts a web interface that users can access after connecting to the Wi-Fi network. That interface lets the user select images to show on the left screen, like a video call from Brain the dog, to really sell the visuals.