Salvaging Watchguard Firebox LCD panel & buttons?

  • I see many people, like me, have used Watchguard Firebox hardware for pfsense.

    My box has shuffled off this mortal coil and I'm using an HP SFF i5 PC now; however, I'm intrigued by the idea of using the LCD panel from the Firebox with my new machine.

    I have removed it from the chassis. It has a 26-pin ribbon cable marked "CN2" at the controller board and on the motherboard. I'm guessing it is a parallel connection but perhaps not. The LCD panel is labeled Apex HC202001. I expect pfsense will drive the LCD if I can connect it, as it was working find when it was in the Firebox, but perhaps that's too optimistic.

    Has anyone rigged up one of these to a serial port, or even USB with a converter? Or do I need a motherboard header to get this to work?

    If not, any ideas? This is my first time messing around with this type of peripheral.

  • So my new machine has a parallel port header on the motherboard, and I was going to give it a go but the connector on the ribbon cable is a smaller type than normal  :o

  • Netgate Administrator

    It is a parallel port. It should work fine with an adapter.


  • I have not looked into the specifics for this, but remember the overall scheme:

    The LCD panel proper is driven by a controller. Typically it is some form of Hitachi HD44780 device (original or compatible). If you pull up the datasheet, you quickly realize nothing on that chip interfaces directly to a modern PC. Therefore, some form of interface is required. In this case, a parallel port interface is used to map out the parallel port pins to the HD44780 pins. When you take the thing out, make sure you get the whole set, including this parallel interface. I have no idea what connectors and adaptors you would need for this.

    That being said, there are many different ways to interface the HD44780 to a host. Check the documentation on for a whole bunch of circuits that have been proposed over the years.

    From a larger standpoint, there are also a bunch of other pre-made LCDs that come with built-in PC-friendly interfaces like USB or serial. Just check the lcdproc project for support to be sure.

    Best of luck, keep us posted.

  • @stephenw10:

    It is a parallel port. It should work fine with an adapter.


    I'm going to try replacing the too-small connector on the ribbon cable with one of these when it eventually arrives via the slow boat:

    If I can connect it to the motherboard parallel port header & bracket, maybe I'll consider an el cheapo USB > Parallel converter to free up the precious real estate at the back of my case for other things (like more NICs). I've got plenty of USB ports on this machine…

  • Of course, now that the connectors have arrived I can see the obvious problem: they are for standard parallel port ribbon cable, whereas both the connector and the ribbon cable from the Firebox's LCD assembly have a finer "pitch" (for lack of a better word).

    I don't know if a converter for these is going to be available, but maybe so. Otherwise I suspect that I may need to splice a length of each type of ribbon cable together? Or connect each up to some breadboard, first, to get a proof of concept up and running?

    Any and all suggestions welcome from folks with more than my non-existent degree of experience!

  • Netgate Administrator

    I would probably hand build the cable. It's not particularly high speed or anything I doubt you would have problems as long as the connections are to the right pins.


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