the why

So I was at the computer fair the other week (month?) and I happened across this digital photo from for sale. It was pretty crappy looking, small and really expensive (~$250). Me being me, thought "I can do better than that!". So I decided to. Now I have (had really) and old laptop lying around. A toshiba 4200 or something. I think it was a really old pentium, like a 60Mhz or something. I figured I could gut it and mount the bits on the back of a frame.

the what

What I used to make the frame

  • one old laptop
  • one pcmcia network card
  • one nice picture frame
  • some flat aluminium bar
  • some small screws
  • an angle grinder
  • a drill

The laptop before surgery. The screen faceplate was already removed from this laptop's foray into the projector business.

This laptop doesn't have an inbuilt network card so I picked up an old PCMCIA one while I was out at the computer fair. It was only $10, bargain! While technically I didn't need a network card it would make remote administration of the frame about a million times (a calculated figure) easier!

PCMCIA Network Card, oooh, BNC connector!

the how

Step 1 - The Dismantling

Basically I dismantled the laptop to the bare minimum parts required for it to function. Below are some images of various stages of the dismantling process.

You must make sure that you are very carful during this stage. It's really easy to damage (and probably render useless) components of the laptop whilst removing them, especially the LCD. Keep all the screws and bits, you never know when you'll need them.

The LCD removed

The LCD

Screen fully gone

Casing removed

I ended up with two boards, the hard drive, floppy drive and screen. The two boards snapped together nicely with a socket and were fairly compact.

Step 2 - The Framing

I tried two different picture frames that I found on the walls of my house. The first one was too small and I would've had to chisel out some wood to make it fit. I tried and it broke. You might want to go and buy one specifically. Make sure that the frame is big enough to obscure all the computery crap that goes behind it. It also looks much better if the screen is about 3/4 the size of the frame so you can put a nice border around it.

The first frame I tried, it was insufficient!

The second frame I found happened to be the perfect size. I decided to keep the LCD in its original mounting and then attach the whole thing to the back of the frame. This made it much easier to mount because it fit almost perfectly within the frame. This doesn't really matter when you mount the screen properly but made it better for the prototyping.

I fitted the screen in the frame and mounted the logic boards onto the back of the screen with double sided tape. Later of course I mounted everything properly with bolts but double sided tape is good for the temporary mounting.

The screen and boards mounted in the frame. Notice how nicely the screen fits into the frame, how lucky is that?