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Driving the Max 7219 7-Segment Display Module from ASP.NET Core on the Raspberry Pi

Written by Michael Earls
 programming  electronics  raspberry pi  C#  .NET Core

In a previous blog post, I discussed how to create a dotnet core 2.0 WebApi application to run on the Raspberry Pi and trigger an LED. This post will build upon that by outlining the steps I took to connect a Max 7219 7-Segment Display Module to the Pi and extend my WebApi to display numbers on the display.

I recently purchased a Max 7219 7-Segment Display Module on eBay. It came in the mail today and I got right to work interfacing it with my Raspberry Pi. I used the excellent instructions found in this post on Plingboot:

Driving the Max7219 with the Raspberry Pi.

I had to convert the C++ code to C# to get it to work with dotnet core, but that didn't take too long. I also added a hex decoder and the ability to use multiple digits.

I hooked up my Pi using the following pin configuration:

  • Pin 11 (Gpio 17) - Data (DIN)
  • Pin 15 (Gpio 22) - Clock (CLK)
  • Pin 16 (Gpio 23) - Load (CS)
  • Pin 1 (3.3v) - 220 Ohm resistor, then to VCC
  • Pin 6 (GND) - GND

I used the same Cake code and foundation WebApi code and added a new Controller for the Max7219. Here is the code:

using System;  
using System.Collections.Generic;  
using System.Linq;  
using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Mvc;  
using Unosquare.RaspberryIO;  
using Unosquare.RaspberryIO.Gpio;

namespace WebApi.Controllers  
{
    [Route("api/[controller]")]
    public class Max7219Controller : Controller
    {
        private GpioPin DataPin = Pi.Gpio.Pin00; // GPIO 17 (WiringPi pin num 0)  header pin 11
        private GpioPin ClockPin = Pi.Gpio.Pin03; // GPIO 22 (WiringPi pin num 3)   header pin 15
        private GpioPin LoadPin = Pi.Gpio.Pin04; // GPIO 23 (WiringPi pin num 4)   header pin 16

        private Dictionary<char, int> Characters = new Dictionary<char, int> 
        {
            {'-', 0b01000000},
            {'0', 0b01111110},
            {'1', 0b00110000},
            {'2', 0b01101101},
            {'3', 0b01111001},
            {'4', 0b00110011},
            {'5', 0b01011011},
            {'6', 0b01011111},
            {'7', 0b01110000},
            {'8', 0b01111111},
            {'9', 0b01111011},
            {'A', 0b01110111},
            {'B', 0b00011111},
            {'C', 0b01001110},
            {'D', 0b00111101},
            {'E', 0b01001111},
            {'F', 0b01000111},
            {'O', 0b00011101},
            {'R', 0b00000101},
            {' ', 0b00000000}
        };
        private int DECODE_MODE = 0x09;
        private int INTENSITY = 0x0a;
        private int SCAN_LIMIT = 0x0b;
        private int SHUTDOWN = 0x0c;
        private int DISPLAY_TEST = 0x0f;

        public Max7219Controller()
        {
            //We need 3 output pins to control the Max7219: Data, Clock and Load
            DataPin.PinMode = GpioPinDriveMode.Output;
            ClockPin.PinMode = GpioPinDriveMode.Output;
            LoadPin.PinMode = GpioPinDriveMode.Output;
        }

        // GET api/values
        [HttpGet]
        public IEnumerable<string> Get()
        {
            Max7219Send(DISPLAY_TEST, 1);
            Max7219Send(DECODE_MODE, 0);   // Set BCD decode mode off
            Max7219Send(INTENSITY, 1);     // set brightness 0 to 15
            Max7219Send(SHUTDOWN, 1);      // come out of shutdown mode    / turn on the digits
            return new string[] { "Test mode. Call Max7219/{number} to show a number on the display" };
        }

        [HttpGet("{value}")]
        public string Get(int value)
        {
            /* 
            BCD decode mode off : data bits correspond to the segments (A-G and DP) of the seven segment display.
            BCD mode on :  0 to 15 =  0 to 9, -, E, H, L, P, and ' '
            */

            Max7219Send(DECODE_MODE, 1);   // Set BCD decode mode on
            Max7219Send(INTENSITY, 1);     // set brightness 0 to 15
            Max7219Send(SHUTDOWN, 1);      // come out of shutdown mode    / turn on the digits
            Max7219Send(1,value);

            /*
            var pin = Pi.Gpio.Pin00;
            pin.PinMode = GpioPinDriveMode.Output;
            pin.Write(value);
            return $"pin {pin.BcmPinNumber} set to {value}";
            */

            return $"sent {value} to Max7219";
        }


        /*
        GetFormatted() will set the value based on the first argument passed in. It will either display the hex or the decimal/integer value.
        http://servername/api/max7219/hex/10
        will display an "A"
         */
        [HttpGet("{format}/{value}")]
        public string GetFormatted(string format, int value)
        {
            Max7219Send(DISPLAY_TEST, 0);  // Disable test mode
            Max7219Send(INTENSITY, 0x01);     // set brightness 0 to 15
            Max7219Send(SHUTDOWN, 0x01);      // come out of shutdown mode    / turn on the digits
            Max7219Send(SCAN_LIMIT, 0x07);    // use all digits
            /* 
            BCD decode mode off : data bits correspond to the segments (A-G and DP) of the seven segment display.
            BCD mode on :  0 to 15 =  0 to 9, -, E, H, L, P, and ' '
            */

            Max7219Send(DECODE_MODE, 0);   // Set BCD decode mode off

            var outValue = format.ToLower() == "hex" ? value.ToString("X") : value.ToString();

            if (outValue.Length > 8)
            {
                // send error message
                outValue = "ERROR";
            }

            // make sure we have enough characters to work with
            outValue = outValue.PadLeft(8, ' ');
            var values = outValue.Reverse().Take(8).ToArray();

            for (int i = 0; i < 8; i++)
            {
                var outChar = values[i];
                Max7219Send(i + 1, Characters[outChar]);
            }

            return $"sent {outValue.Trim()} to Max7219 in {format} format.";
        }

        private void Max7219Send(int regNumber, int dataOut)
        {
            LoadPin.Write(GpioPinValue.High); // set LOAD High to start
            Send16Bits((regNumber << 8) + dataOut);   // send 16 bits ( reg number + dataout )
            LoadPin.Write(GpioPinValue.Low); // LOAD Low to latch
            LoadPin.Write(GpioPinValue.High); // set LOAD high to finish
        }

        private void Send16Bits(int output)
        {
            for(short i = 16; i > 0; i--)
            {
                int mask = 1 << (i - 1); // calculate bitmask

                ClockPin.Write(GpioPinValue.Low);

                // send one bit on the data pin
                if (Convert.ToBoolean(output & mask))
                {
                    DataPin.Write(GpioPinValue.High);
                }
                else
                {
                    DataPin.Write(GpioPinValue.Low);
                }

                ClockPin.Write(GpioPinValue.High);
            }
        }
    }
}

This code will allow you to use either decimal(integer) or hexadecimal values depending on how you call the method.

http://servername/api/max7219/hex/42

will display "2A" on the display, while

http://servername/api/max7219/decimal/42

will display "42".

Also, if the output data is more than 8 characters in length, it will display "Error" (line 113).
ERROR ERROR on the Max7219 8-character 7-segment display

Update - November 29, 2017 - Here are the hexadecimal digits for versions of C# prior to 7 that do not support the binary literals:

private Dictionary<char, int> Characters = new Dictionary<char, int>  
{
    {'0', 0x7e},
    {'1', 0x30},
    {'2', 0x6d},
    {'3', 0x79},
    {'4', 0x33},
    {'5', 0x5b},
    {'6', 0x5f},
    {'7', 0x70},
    {'8', 0x7f},
    {'9', 0x7b},
    {'A', 0x77},
    {'B', 0x1f},
    {'C', 0x4e},
    {'D', 0x3d},
    {'E', 0x4f},
    {'F', 0x47},
    {'O', 0x1d},
    {'R', 0x05},
    {'-', 0x40},
    {' ', 0x00}
};