Choosing a low cost board

Thread Starter


Joined Mar 24, 2007
Hello everyone,

I'm a 3rd year CS student and I'm working on a project: I would like to create a digital instrument panel for a car. It should gather information from sensors in the car and display the information on a color TFT/LCD display in the dashboard.

I'm having some difficulty finding a suitable board to use for my project. I require a -- primarily -- low cost, small-ish microcontroller board, that has the following:

-at least 8 analog inputs (for all the gauges, etc.)
-at least 30 digital inputs (for warning lights, open/closed doors, etc.)
-a TFT/LCD controller with SVGA capability (800x* will probably be the resolution used)
-min. 16-32MB of flash, to store code and images to be displayed.
-some way to get the data on board (serial, whatever)

Could anyone recommend some manufacturers which would make this kind boards, and a price range I should be expecting?
Thank you!



Joined Apr 20, 2004
Google reports 44,400,000 hits on "single board computers". You might hit a few sites and try a parametric search. The extreme temperature range you will need will winnow out many possibilities.

Your requirement for getting data on board is puzzling. That would seem to be what the analog and digital inputs are for.

Thread Starter


Joined Mar 24, 2007
I've been searching Google for past month trying to figure out what to use.
At first I tried going for a higher end approach, thinking I might 'bling' it up a bit (so I turned to x86 single board computers in PC/104 and EPIC sizes).

But then I realized that would be overkill for my project, so I turned to microcontroller solutions, which seem better suited for the task.

The reason I turned to this board, as well as Google, is because of the large number of sites found. I would like to hear some opinions who have actually used the boards I've only heard of.


Joined Jun 30, 2006
Use an old but working laptop and make a custom case for it.

Then you can use a customized interface to talk to. There are variants of Linux geared to small applications like this. There may even be an off the shelf interface that can do what you ask.

PCMCIA IO board to receive data from the car,
USB IO adaptor
FIrewire IO adaptor
Parallel port
Serial port

There are PCMCIA adaptors that allow you to use Compact flash if that's what you want. Depending on the age of the laptop would depend on if it can boot off any external drives. I've booted off a floppy then had it boot a USB drive on an older on.


P.S. My webserver is a P90 with 32megs ram and 1 gig drive. :p
I can use it as wall art if I choose and have it flip through pictures while it's working as a webserver.
No it's not porn, I'd never do that. ;)