BOB-4 OSD Modules

BOB-4 is Decade's fourth-generation low-cost video information overlay module, 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, as seen below. 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.

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 for BOB-4H.
Manufacturing quantities (10 or more) qualify for discount pricing. Inquire for details.

Key Features:
  • 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)
  • Text crawl (single-line smooth horizontal scroll)
  • Mirror-image reverse display capability, horizontal and vertical
  • 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 +85°C
  • 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

Suggested Applications
  • Remote Video Inspection
  • Industrial Process Monitor
  • Black Screen Generator
  • Home Automation
  • RPV ~ Remotely Piloted Vehicles
  • Robotics & Teleoperated Mechanisms
  • GPS Data Overlay
  • MATV ~ Cable TV ~ Pay TV
  • CCTV Security & Surveillance
  • Electronic Signs & Information Displays
  • ROV ~ Underwater Video
  • ATV ~ Amateur TV
  • Dumb Serial Terminal
  • Athletic Events & Motor Racing
  • UAV and R/C Aircraft
  • Law Enforcement

BOB-4 Information Resources

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 program to manage BOB-4 fonts, configuration, boot scripts, and firmware upgrades. Includes a simple 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 the 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).


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.

Will BOB-4 work with my data source?

  • BOB-4 modules behave much like printers or dumb serial terminals. They can often be configured to work with the data stream from devices that were intended to drive basic dot-matrix printers. BOB-4 is configured via RS-232 commands, a bootscript, and custom fonts, all saved in flash memory. It's entirely practical to configure BOB-4 through a common PC terminal emulation program. The XBOB-4 Quick-Start Guide & POS Tutorial offers a lot of useful information on this topic. Just ignore the material that's unique to XBOB-4. The free BOB-4 Conscriptor program manages custom fonts and offers simplified configuration tools.
If display formatting requirements are complex, then it may be necessary to insert a smart interface between the data source and BOB-4. The smart interface could be a microcontroller module such as the popular Arduino, Raspberry PI, or Parallax BASIC Stamp, for example. The choice of interface hardware is often determined by the programmer's preference. Many other factors can influence the decision, including cost, serial communication support, CPU speed, development tools, package size & weight, power requirements, etc.



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