Turning a laptop into a single board computer station

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One of the things I’ve been meaning to play with are single board computers like Raspberry Pi, Beagle Board, and C.H.I.P. I have lacked a nice small monitor, and haven’t wanted to take apart my nice dual monitor desktop system, and haven’t found a good enough excuse to buy a new monitor.

Thus, my Raspberry Pis have been sitting in a drawer, waiting. I came across a cool idea, which was to re-purpose a laptop screen. And then I thought, but there wouldn’t be a nice case, and it would be all messy. And then one of those lightbulbs went off in my head.

What if I took out the guts of an old laptop I had (one that isn’t especially thin) and made that into a nice surface for a board, added perhaps a nice breadboard for projects, and space for stuff, all in the laptop, and used the screen as well? Then when I was working on a project, I could just pull out the laptop, drop in one of the boards I was working with, do the project, then move the board to a case or something depending on what I was doing (I do have two projects in mind for Pis that don’t need screens at all.)

So that’s my project. If it actually works, I think I’ll make it an instructable.

I’m starting with an Lenovo Thinkpad x130e, about 4 years old. It’s in perfectly fine shape, but I don’t really have a use for a clunky laptop, so why not use it for this?

2016-03-11 18.07.20

First step, I need to get an LCD controller for the LCD screen. In this link, there is a tip to send an email to e-qstore on eBay, with your LCD model #, and they’ll tell you which  LCD controller kit to buy. I did that, and it’s on it’s way via slow boat from China. (You have to take apart the laptop to get the screen out of the case to see the model #.)

The steps I see are this:

  1. Figure out whether the LCD controller can fit behind the LCD panel in the lid of the laptop.
  2. Figure out how to get the wire from the controller from the top to the bottom.
  3.  Take off the keyboard, and take out the main board, and clear out the main part of the bottom to make room for the Pi and other things
  4. Figure out how best to get power to the Pi inside the laptop
  5. Figure out how best to deal with the USB ports that I’ll need

There are other things, but the next post about this project will be when I get the LCD controller.