SignBlaster Digital Badge, retail $44.95 (
Manufactured by (unknown)
Last updated 11-09-10

The SignBlaster Digital Badge was sent to me by a website fan, and did not come with any retail packaging, but did include everything I needed to make it work, except a CR2032 coin cell - which I believe comes with the kit when you buy one.

(Edit 07-02-04:) As I understand, the SignBlaster kit comes without retail packaging (pegboard packages), so this is perfectly normal.

The SignBlaster is remarkably easy to use; just plug the DB-9 plug into the serial port on your computer, pop a battery in the SignBlaster itself, plug the free end of the cord into the SignBlaster, load up the program off the included CD-ROM, and type your message (up to 118 characters and spaces) into the box on your computer screen. Yes, it really is that easy.


To use the SignBlaster, first insert a battery into it (see below). Plug the large end of the included cable into the male DB-9 serial port on your computer, and plug the small end into the receptacle on the SignBlaster for it. Pop the included miniature CD-ROM disc into your CD-ROM drive, and run the program "badge.exe" on it. Type your message, up to 118 characters and spaces into the large box, select the scrolling speed (I recommend setting it to its slowest setting; there are six scrolling speeds to choose from), then click the "SEND" button. Almost immediately, a box will come up that reads "Send complete". Click on the "OK" button to close this box, and if desired, click on the "X" on the upper right of the window to close the badge.exe program itself.

Unplug the cable from your SignBlaster.

On the back of the SignBlaster, that long black rectangular thing is a piece of iron or steel covered with black plastic. Remove it to expose three small magnets. Position the SignBlaster where you want it on the outside of your shirt or other garment, and place the steel bar behind the shirt or other fabric, aligned with the SignBlaster. The magnets in the SignBlaster will then be attracted to the steel bar, holding the SignBlaster to your shirt or other fabric.

You may now leave it alone, and let it do the talking.

The instructional material states that there is an on/off switch on the back of the SignBlaster, but it took me awhile to find it. It's a small rectangular metal thing with a cream colored top on the back of the SignBlaster (it's at the upper left corner of the magnet assembly in the second photograph from the top on this page); press and release it to turn the SignBlaster on and off.

When you're ready to turn the SignBlaster off, remove the steel bar from the inside of your shirt, and affix it to the back of the SignBlaster. Press and release the switch on the back of the unit, and place the SignBlaster where you won't lose it.

The memory in the SignBlaster is non-volatile, simply meaning that removing the battery won't erase the message you input into the SignBlaster.

In this photograph, the SignBlaster is shown affixed to the outside of a shirt.

To insert the battery into your SignBlaster, turn the unit upside-down so the circuitry faces up. Turn the unit so the shiny, round battery carriage faces you. Slide a CR2032 lithium coin cell into this carriage, flat side (+) positive up, and that's it.

To remove the battery, use a ballpoint pen or similar instrument, and push the cell out from the magnet side of the battery carriage. Once it's out enough, grasp the cell at the edge of the SignBlaster and pull it straight out.

IMPORTANT: I broke one of the soldered connections on the battery carriage while removing the battery, so please be VERY careful when you remove the battery from yours.
This was an easy repair with a soldering iron; however if you do not or can not solder, getting this fixed might not be so easy. It still worked fine with one of the connections unsoldered, but reliability would be an issue, so I repaired it right away.

Advertised battery lifetime is approximately 20 hours.

This is a digital scrolling badge, not a flashlight. So I won't try to whack it against a steel rod, stomp on it, flush it down a toilet, run over it, or inflict other punishments upon it that I might inflict upon a flashlight. So this section of its web page will be rather bare.

Because the SignBlaster uses magnets and is designed to be affixed to fabric on your upper body, do not use it if you have a pacemaker.

The SignBlaster has 21 columns of 7 red LEDs, for 147 LEDs total.

One of the first things I do when I test a programmable message thing is to see if there's an onboard censor, and there isn't. I typed in "{vulgar term for intercourse} {vulgar term for feces} {vulgar term for urine} {vulgar term for a penis vaccuummnne} DOUCHEBAG" into the program, then uploaded it into the SignBlaster, and it happily spouted off the stream of obcenities. I immediately changed it back to "THANK YOU FOR VISITING THE LED MUSEUM AT WWW.LEDMUSEUM.ORG!!!" just so I wouldn't forget.
So if you have garbage mouth, potty mouth, toilet tongue, sewer mouth, sewer chute, etc. you can input dirty language into the device and have it spew forth with the obcenities when the SignBlaster is subsequently used.

I tried to take a photograph of the SignBlaster while a message was scrolling, but the scrolling speed was fast enough and the camera's shutter speed was slow enough that all the LEDs appear lighted in this picture.

Spectrographic analysis
Spectrographic analysis of the LEDs in this badge.
USB2000 spectrometer graciously donated by P.L.

Video clip on YourTube showing the Signblaster displaying a brief message.

This clip is approximately 3.2023423 megabytes (3,227,378 bytes) in length; dial-up users please be aware.
It will take no less than seventeen minutes to load at 48.0Kbps.

Video clip on YourTube showing the Signblaster displaying the message "MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR 2010!!! :-)".

This clip is approximately 2.2345356 megabytes (2,583,602 bytes) in length; dial-up users please be aware.
It will take no less than twelve minutes to load at 48.0Kbps.

Video clip on YourTube showing the Signblaster being programmed.

This clip is approximately 10.388878232700 megabytes (10,542,746 bytes) in length; dial-up users please be aware.
It will take no less than fifty two minutes to load at 48.0Kbps.
I cannot provide any of these videos in other formats, so please do not ask.

Sample of the SignBlaster was sent by a website fan and received on 06-10-04. The first battery of tests were done on 07-01-04.

UPDATE: 07-04-04
I intend to use the SignBlaster tonight during one of the Seattle fireworks shows. I'll be at Victor Steinbrueck Park just north of the Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle watching the Elliot Bay show, and the SignBlaster will read "THANK YOU FOR VISITING THE LED MUSEUM AT WWW.LEDMUSEUM.ORG!!!". If I receive any comments about the SignBlaster, I'll post them right here on this page.

UPDATE: 11:00pm PDT same day
I received one comment about the SignBlaster; akin to "what the heck is that thing?".
I told them what it was, and allowed them to read the entire scroll text.

UPDATE: 07-18-04
The SignBlaster is very cool, earned the 4 1/2 star rating I gave it, and earned its spot in the Trophy Case too.

No onboard censor ;-)
LEDs are bright enough to see in room light
Enough space to input a reasonable sized message (118 characters)
Battery it needs is a bit odd, but not unreasonably so. Should be easy to find
Easy to program


No onboard censor :-o
Battery carriage may become broken (there goes half the star)

    PRODUCT TYPE: Magnetic scrolling LED badge
    LAMP TYPE: Small red LED
    No. OF LAMPS: 147
    SWITCH TYPE: Small rubber-capped pushbutton on/off
    BEZEL: LEDs behind transparent red window
    BATTERY: 1x CR2032 lithium coin cell
    CURRENT CONSUMPTION: Unknown/unable to measure
    ACCESSORIES: Female DB-9 (serial) cable, miniature CD-ROM, CR2032 cell
    WARRANTY: Limited lifetime


    Star RatingStar Rating

SignBlaster Digital Badge *

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