I’ve been a fan of the Vectrex video game console for many years. It’s a wonderful real-world example of vector-based displays; a fantastic dead-end technology that were very much pushed to their limits in the games consoles of the 80s. They draw by simply moving the electron beam of a CRT along a path (a lot like an Etch A Sketch), leading to wonderfully crisp images–the kind of thing that wasn’t at all possible until Retina displays.

Minestorm (aka. Asteroids) on the Vectrex, demonstrating the beautifully crisp images.

Jonty gave me some great pointers for getting started:

Depends what it’s for. Most people I know have built their own as you can do way more with them. I helped someone with a LaserShark based one about a year ago.

Basically a LaserShark, a laser (with blanking), and two high-PPS galvo’s will do you.

But you can buy things off the shelf too.

You’d probably want an ILDA compliant laser

And pps (points-per-second) is the measure of how fast the galvos are, and thus how complex the vector patterns it can sustain are too

You can build a decent one for ~£250

Oh, and you want blanking because otherwise you’ll just draw a continuous line instead of separate shapes. You tend to damage the laser by switching it really fast, so an LCD shutter is in the beamline instead.

Oscilloscope: “Rigol DS1024 if you want large and fancy, DSO Nano if you want pocket sized and less fancy.”

“Mount it all on a bit of aluminium plate and jobs a goodun”

“Laser projectors are pretty easy to build though, high-ppi galvos from eBay, laser with blanking from aliexpress (or eBay), lasershark board.”

GitHub - jhawthorn/vecx: vecx vectrex emulator - sdl port

‘Lasers capable of TTL or 0-5v analog modulation’

Now, bear in mind this was the first time I’d really looked serious at circuit diagrams since high school.