Seven-segment Display - Implementations


Seven-segment displays may use a liquid crystal display (LCD), arrays of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), or other light-generating or controlling techniques such as cold cathode gas discharge, vacuum fluorescent, incandescent filaments, and others. For gasoline price totems and other large signs, vane displays made up of electromagnetically flipped light-reflecting segments (or "vanes") are still commonly used. An alternative to the 7-segment display in the 1950s through the 1970s was the cold-cathode, neon-lamp-like nixie tube. Starting in 1970, RCA sold a display device known as the Numitron that used incandescent filaments arranged into a seven-segment display.

In a simple LED package, typically all of the cathodes (negative terminals) or all of the anodes (positive terminals) of the segment LEDs are connected and brought out to a common pin; this is referred to as a "common cathode" or "common anode" device. Hence a 7 segment plus decimal point package will only require nine pins (though commercial products typically contain more pins, and/or spaces where pins would go, in order to match industry standard pinouts). Common cathode implementations require logic low (0) to turn on a segment, common anode implementations require logic high (1) to turn on a segment.

Integrated displays also exist, with single or multiple digits. Some of these integrated displays incorporate their own internal decoder, though most do not: each individual LED is brought out to a connecting pin as described. Multiple-digit LED displays as used in pocket calculators and similar devices used multiplexed displays to reduce the number of IC pins required to control the display. For example, all the anodes of the A segments of each digit position would be connected together and to a driver pin, while the cathodes of all segments for each digit would be connected. To operate any particular segment of any digit, the controlling integrated circuit would turn on the cathode driver for the selected digit, and the anode drivers for the desired segments; then after a short blanking interval the next digit would be selected and new segments lit, in a sequential fashion. In this manner an eight digit display with seven segments and a decimal point would require only 8 cathode drivers and 8 anode drivers, instead of sixty-four drivers and IC pins. Often in pocket calculators the digit drive lines would be used to scan the keyboard as well, providing further savings; however, pressing multiple keys at once would produce odd results on the multiplexed display.

A single byte can encode the full state of a 7-segment-display. The most popular bit encodings are gfedcba and abcdefg, where each letter represents a particular segment in the display. In the gfedcba representation, a byte value of 0x06 would (in a common-anode circuit) turn on segments 'c' and 'b', which would display a '1'.

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