An I/O controller for virtual pinball machines: accelerometer nudge sensing, analog plunger input, button input encoding, LedWiz compatible output controls, and more.

Dependencies:   mbed FastIO FastPWM USBDevice

Fork of Pinscape_Controller by Mike R


This is Version 2 of the Pinscape Controller, an I/O controller for virtual pinball machines. (You can find the old version 1 software here.) Pinscape is software for the KL25Z that turns the board into a full-featured I/O controller for virtual pinball, with support for accelerometer-based nudging, a real plunger, button inputs, and feedback device control.

In case you haven't heard of the concept before, a "virtual pinball machine" is basically a video pinball simulator that's built into a real pinball machine body. A TV monitor goes in place of the pinball playfield, and a second TV goes in the backbox to serve as the "backglass" display. A third smaller monitor can serve as the "DMD" (the Dot Matrix Display used for scoring on newer machines), or you can even install a real pinball plasma DMD. A computer is hidden inside the cabinet, running pinball emulation software that displays a life-sized playfield on the main TV. The cabinet has all of the usual buttons, too, so it not only looks like the real thing, but plays like it too. That's a picture of my own machine to the right. On the outside, it's built exactly like a real arcade pinball machine, with the same overall dimensions and all of the standard pinball cabinet hardware.

A few small companies build and sell complete, finished virtual pinball machines, but I think it's more fun as a DIY project. If you have some basic wood-working skills and know your way around PCs, you can build one from scratch. The computer part is just an ordinary Windows PC, and all of the pinball emulation can be built out of free, open-source software. In that spirit, the Pinscape Controller is an open-source software/hardware project that offers a no-compromises, all-in-one control center for all of the unique input/output needs of a virtual pinball cabinet. If you've been thinking about building one of these, but you're not sure how to connect a plunger, flipper buttons, lights, nudge sensor, and whatever else you can think of, this project might be just what you're looking for.

You can find much more information about DIY Pin Cab building in general in the Virtual Cabinet Forum on Also visit my Pinscape Resources page for more about this project and other virtual pinball projects I'm working on.


  • Pinscape Release Builds: This page has download links for all of the Pinscape software. To get started, install and run the Pinscape Config Tool on your Windows computer. It will lead you through the steps for installing the Pinscape firmware on the KL25Z.
  • Config Tool Source Code. The complete C# source code for the config tool. You don't need this to run the tool, but it's available if you want to customize anything or see how it works inside.


The new Version 2 Build Guide is now complete! This new version aims to be a complete guide to building a virtual pinball machine, including not only the Pinscape elements but all of the basics, from sourcing parts to building all of the hardware.

You can also refer to the original Hardware Build Guide (PDF), but that's out of date now, since it refers to the old version 1 software, which was rather different (especially when it comes to configuration).

System Requirements

The new config tool requires a fairly up-to-date Microsoft .NET installation. If you use Windows Update to keep your system current, you should be fine. A modern version of Internet Explorer (IE) is required, even if you don't use it as your main browser, because the config tool uses some system components that Microsoft packages into the IE install set. I test with IE11, so that's known to work. IE8 doesn't work. IE9 and 10 are unknown at this point.

The Windows requirements are only for the config tool. The firmware doesn't care about anything on the Windows side, so if you can make do without the config tool, you can use almost any Windows setup.

Main Features

Plunger: The Pinscape Controller started out as a "mechanical plunger" controller: a device for attaching a real pinball plunger to the video game software so that you could launch the ball the natural way. This is still, of course, a central feature of the project. The software supports several types of sensors: a high-resolution optical sensor (which works by essentially taking pictures of the plunger as it moves); a slide potentionmeter (which determines the position via the changing electrical resistance in the pot); a quadrature sensor (which counts bars printed on a special guide rail that it moves along); and an IR distance sensor (which determines the position by sending pulses of light at the plunger and measuring the round-trip travel time). The Build Guide explains how to set up each type of sensor.

Nudging: The KL25Z (the little microcontroller that the software runs on) has a built-in accelerometer. The Pinscape software uses it to sense when you nudge the cabinet, and feeds the acceleration data to the pinball software on the PC. This turns physical nudges into virtual English on the ball. The accelerometer is quite sensitive and accurate, so we can measure the difference between little bumps and hard shoves, and everything in between. The result is natural and immersive.

Buttons: You can wire real pinball buttons to the KL25Z, and the software will translate the buttons into PC input. You have the option to map each button to a keyboard key or joystick button. You can wire up your flipper buttons, Magna Save buttons, Start button, coin slots, operator buttons, and whatever else you need.

Feedback devices: You can also attach "feedback devices" to the KL25Z. Feedback devices are things that create tactile, sound, and lighting effects in sync with the game action. The most popular PC pinball emulators know how to address a wide variety of these devices, and know how to match them to on-screen action in each virtual table. You just need an I/O controller that translates commands from the PC into electrical signals that turn the devices on and off. The Pinscape Controller can do that for you.

Expansion Boards

There are two main ways to run the Pinscape Controller: standalone, or using the "expansion boards".

In the basic standalone setup, you just need the KL25Z, plus whatever buttons, sensors, and feedback devices you want to attach to it. This mode lets you take advantage of everything the software can do, but for some features, you'll have to build some ad hoc external circuitry to interface external devices with the KL25Z. The Build Guide has detailed plans for exactly what you need to build.

The other option is the Pinscape Expansion Boards. The expansion boards are a companion project, which is also totally free and open-source, that provides Printed Circuit Board (PCB) layouts that are designed specifically to work with the Pinscape software. The PCB designs are in the widely used EAGLE format, which many PCB manufacturers can turn directly into physical boards for you. The expansion boards organize all of the external connections more neatly than on the standalone KL25Z, and they add all of the interface circuitry needed for all of the advanced software functions. The big thing they bring to the table is lots of high-power outputs. The boards provide a modular system that lets you add boards to add more outputs. If you opt for the basic core setup, you'll have enough outputs for all of the toys in a really well-equipped cabinet. If your ambitions go beyond merely well-equipped and run to the ridiculously extravagant, just add an extra board or two. The modular design also means that you can add to the system over time.

Expansion Board project page

Update notes

If you have a Pinscape V1 setup already installed, you should be able to switch to the new version pretty seamlessly. There are just a couple of things to be aware of.

First, the "configuration" procedure is completely different in the new version. Way better and way easier, but it's not what you're used to from V1. In V1, you had to edit the project source code and compile your own custom version of the program. No more! With V2, you simply install the standard, pre-compiled .bin file, and select options using the Pinscape Config Tool on Windows.

Second, if you're using the TSL1410R optical sensor for your plunger, there's a chance you'll need to boost your light source's brightness a little bit. The "shutter speed" is faster in this version, which means that it doesn't spend as much time collecting light per frame as before. The software actually does "auto exposure" adaptation on every frame, so the increased shutter speed really shouldn't bother it, but it does require a certain minimum level of contrast, which requires a certain minimal level of lighting. Check the plunger viewer in the setup tool if you have any problems; if the image looks totally dark, try increasing the light level to see if that helps.

New Features

V2 has numerous new features. Here are some of the highlights...

Dynamic configuration: as explained above, configuration is now handled through the Config Tool on Windows. It's no longer necessary to edit the source code or compile your own modified binary.

Improved plunger sensing: the software now reads the TSL1410R optical sensor about 15x faster than it did before. This allows reading the sensor at full resolution (400dpi), about 400 times per second. The faster frame rate makes a big difference in how accurately we can read the plunger position during the fast motion of a release, which allows for more precise position sensing and faster response. The differences aren't dramatic, since the sensing was already pretty good even with the slower V1 scan rate, but you might notice a little better precision in tricky skill shots.

Keyboard keys: button inputs can now be mapped to keyboard keys. The joystick button option is still available as well, of course. Keyboard keys have the advantage of being closer to universal for PC pinball software: some pinball software can be set up to take joystick input, but nearly all PC pinball emulators can take keyboard input, and nearly all of them use the same key mappings.

Local shift button: one physical button can be designed as the local shift button. This works like a Shift button on a keyboard, but with cabinet buttons. It allows each physical button on the cabinet to have two PC keys assigned, one normal and one shifted. Hold down the local shift button, then press another key, and the other key's shifted key mapping is sent to the PC. The shift button can have a regular key mapping of its own as well, so it can do double duty. The shift feature lets you access more functions without cluttering your cabinet with extra buttons. It's especially nice for less frequently used functions like adjusting the volume or activating night mode.

Night mode: the output controller has a new "night mode" option, which lets you turn off all of your noisy devices with a single button, switch, or PC command. You can designate individual ports as noisy or not. Night mode only disables the noisemakers, so you still get the benefit of your flashers, button lights, and other quiet devices. This lets you play late into the night without disturbing your housemates or neighbors.

Gamma correction: you can designate individual output ports for gamma correction. This adjusts the intensity level of an output to make it match the way the human eye perceives brightness, so that fades and color mixes look more natural in lighting devices. You can apply this to individual ports, so that it only affects ports that actually have lights of some kind attached.

IR Remote Control: the controller software can transmit and/or receive IR remote control commands if you attach appropriate parts (an IR LED to send, an IR sensor chip to receive). This can be used to turn on your TV(s) when the system powers on, if they don't turn on automatically, and for any other functions you can think of requiring IR send/receive capabilities. You can assign IR commands to cabinet buttons, so that pressing a button on your cabinet sends a remote control command from the attached IR LED, and you can have the controller generate virtual key presses on your PC in response to received IR commands. If you have the IR sensor attached, the system can use it to learn commands from your existing remotes.

Yet more USB fixes: I've been gradually finding and fixing USB bugs in the mbed library for months now. This version has all of the fixes of the last couple of releases, of course, plus some new ones. It also has a new "last resort" feature, since there always seems to be "just one more" USB bug. The last resort is that you can tell the device to automatically reboot itself if it loses the USB connection and can't restore it within a given time limit.

More Downloads

  • Custom VP builds: I created modified versions of Visual Pinball 9.9 and Physmod5 that you might want to use in combination with this controller. The modified versions have special handling for plunger calibration specific to the Pinscape Controller, as well as some enhancements to the nudge physics. If you're not using the plunger, you might still want it for the nudge improvements. The modified version also works with any other input controller, so you can get the enhanced nudging effects even if you're using a different plunger/nudge kit. The big change in the modified versions is a "filter" for accelerometer input that's designed to make the response to cabinet nudges more realistic. It also makes the response more subdued than in the standard VP, so it's not to everyone's taste. The downloads include both the updated executables and the source code changes, in case you want to merge the changes into your own custom version(s).

    Note! These features are now standard in the official VP releases, so you don't need my custom builds if you're using 9.9.1 or later and/or VP 10. I don't think there's any reason to use my versions instead of the latest official ones, and in fact I'd encourage you to use the official releases since they're more up to date, but I'm leaving my builds available just in case. In the official versions, look for the checkbox "Enable Nudge Filter" in the Keys preferences dialog. My custom versions don't include that checkbox; they just enable the filter unconditionally.
  • Output circuit shopping list: This is a saved shopping cart at with the parts needed to build one copy of the high-power output circuit for the LedWiz emulator feature, for use with the standalone KL25Z (that is, without the expansion boards). The quantities in the cart are for one output channel, so if you want N outputs, simply multiply the quantities by the N, with one exception: you only need one ULN2803 transistor array chip for each eight output circuits. If you're using the expansion boards, you won't need any of this, since the boards provide their own high-power outputs.
  • Cary Owens' optical sensor housing: A 3D-printable design for a housing/mounting bracket for the optical plunger sensor, designed by Cary Owens. This makes it easy to mount the sensor.
  • Lemming77's potentiometer mounting bracket and shooter rod connecter: Sketchup designs for 3D-printable parts for mounting a slide potentiometer as the plunger sensor. These were designed for a particular slide potentiometer that used to be available from an seller but is no longer listed. You can probably use this design as a starting point for other similar devices; just check the dimensions before committing the design to plastic.

Copyright and License

The Pinscape firmware is copyright 2014, 2021 by Michael J Roberts. It's released under an MIT open-source license. See License.

Warning to VirtuaPin Kit Owners

This software isn't designed as a replacement for the VirtuaPin plunger kit's firmware. If you bought the VirtuaPin kit, I recommend that you don't install this software. The VirtuaPin kit uses the same KL25Z microcontroller that Pinscape uses, but the rest of its hardware is different and incompatible. In particular, the Pinscape firmware doesn't include support for the IR proximity sensor used in the VirtuaPin plunger kit, so you won't be able to use your plunger device with the Pinscape firmware. In addition, the VirtuaPin setup uses a different set of GPIO pins for the button inputs from the Pinscape defaults, so if you do install the Pinscape firmware, you'll have to go into the Config Tool and reassign all of the buttons to match the VirtuaPin wiring.



File content as of revision 48:058ace2aed1d:

// Pinscape Controller TLC5940 interface
// Based on Spencer Davis's mbed TLC5940 library.  Adapted for the
// KL25Z, and simplified to just the functions needed for this
// application.  In particular, this version doesn't include support 
// for dot correction programming or status input.  This version also
// uses a different approach for sending the grayscale data updates,
// sending updates during the blanking interval rather than overlapping
// them with the PWM cycle.  This results in very slightly longer 
// blanking intervals when updates are pending, effectively reducing 
// the PWM "on" duty cycle (and thus the output brightness) by about 
// 0.3%.  This shouldn't be perceptible to users, so it's a small
// trade-off for the advantage gained, which is much better signal 
// stability when using multiple TLC5940s daisy-chained together.
// I saw a lot of instability when using the overlapped approach,
// which seems to be eliminated entirely when sending updates during
// the blanking interval.

#ifndef TLC5940_H
#define TLC5940_H

// Data Transmission Mode.
// NOTE!  This section contains a possible workaround to try if you're 
// having data signal stability problems with your TLC5940 chips.  If
// things are working properly, you can ignore this part.
// The software has two options for sending data updates to the chips:
// Mode 0:  Send data *during* the grayscale cycle.  This is the default,
// and it's the standard method the chips are designed for.  In this mode, 
// we start sending an update just after then blanking interval that starts 
// a new grayscale cycle.  The timing is arranged so that the update is 
// completed well before the end of the grayscale cycle.  At the next 
// blanking interval, we latch the new data, so the new brightness levels 
// will be shown starting on the next cycle.

// Mode 1:  Send data *between* grayscale cycles.  In this mode, we send
// each complete update during a blanking period, then latch the update
// and start the next grayscale cycle.  This isn't the way the chips were
// intended to be used, but it works.  The disadvantage is that it requires
// the blanking interval to be extended long enough for the full data 
// update (192 bits * the number of chips in the chain).  Since the
// outputs are turned off throughout the blanking period, this reduces
// the overall brightness/intensity of the outputs by reducing the duty
// cycle.  The TLC5940 chips can't achieve 100% duty cycle to begin with,
// since they require a brief minimum time in the blanking interval
// between grayscale cycles; however, the minimum is so short that the
// duty cycle is close to 100%.  With the full data transmission stuffed
// into the blanking interval, we reduce the duty cycle further below
// 100%.  With four chips in the chain, a 28 MHz data clock, and a
// 500 kHz grayscale clock, the reduction is about 0.3%.
// Mode 0 is the method documented in the manufacturer's data sheet.
// It works well empirically with the Pinscape expansion boards.
// So what's the point of Mode 1?  In early testing, with a breadboard 
// setup, I saw some problems with data signal stability, which manifested 
// as sporadic flickering in the outputs.  Switching to Mode 1 improved
// the signal stability considerably.  I'm therefore leaving this code
// available as an option in case anyone runs into similar signal problems
// and wants to try the alternative mode as a workaround.

#include "mbed.h"
#include "FastPWM.h"
#include "SimpleDMA.h"
#include "DMAChannels.h"

  * SPI speed used by the mbed to communicate with the TLC5940
  * The TLC5940 supports up to 30Mhz.  It's best to keep this as
  * high as possible, since a higher SPI speed yields a faster 
  * grayscale data update.  However, I've seen some slight
  * instability in the signal in my breadboard setup using the
  * full 30MHz, so I've reduced this slightly, which seems to
  * yield a solid signal.  The limit will vary according to how
  * clean the signal path is to the chips; you can probably crank
  * this up to full speed if you have a well-designed PCB, good
  * decoupling capacitors near the 5940 VCC/GND pins, and short
  * wires between the KL25Z and the PCB.  A short, clean path to
  * KL25Z ground seems especially important.
  * The SPI clock must be fast enough that the data transmission
  * time for a full update is comfortably less than the blanking 
  * cycle time.  The grayscale refresh requires 192 bits per TLC5940 
  * in the daisy chain, and each bit takes one SPI clock to send.  
  * Our reference setup in the Pinscape controller allows for up to 
  * 4 TLC5940s, so a full refresh cycle on a fully populated system 
  * would be 768 SPI clocks.  The blanking cycle is 4096 GSCLK cycles.  
  *   t(blank) = 4096 * 1/GSCLK_SPEED
  *   t(refresh) = 768 * 1/SPI_SPEED
  *   Therefore:  SPI_SPEED must be > 768/4096 * GSCLK_SPEED
  * Since the SPI speed can be so high, and since we want to keep
  * the GSCLK speed relatively low, the constraint above simply
  * isn't a factor.  E.g., at SPI=30MHz and GSCLK=500kHz, 
  * t(blank) is 8192us and t(refresh) is 25us.
#define SPI_SPEED 28000000

  * The rate at which the GSCLK pin is pulsed.   This also controls 
  * how often the reset function is called.   The reset function call
  * interval is (1/GSCLK_SPEED) * 4096.  The maximum reliable rate is
  * around 32Mhz.  It's best to keep this rate as low as possible:
  * the higher the rate, the higher the refresh() call frequency,
  * so the higher the CPU load.  Higher frequencies also make it more
  * challenging to wire the chips for clean signal transmission, so
  * minimizing the clock speed will help with signal stability.
  * The lower bound depends on the application.  For driving lights,
  * the limiting factor is flicker: the lower the rate, the more
  * noticeable the flicker.  Incandescents tend to look flicker-free
  * at about 50 Hz (205 kHz grayscale clock).  LEDs need slightly 
  * faster rates.
#define GSCLK_SPEED    350000

  *  This class controls a TLC5940 PWM driver IC.
  *  Using the TLC5940 class to control an LED:
  *  @code
  *  #include "mbed.h"
  *  #include "TLC5940.h"
  *  // Create the TLC5940 instance
  *  TLC5940 tlc(p7, p5, p21, p9, p10, p11, p12, 1);
  *  int main()
  *  {   
  *      // Enable the first LED
  *      tlc.set(0, 0xfff);
  *      while(1)
  *      {
  *      }
  *  }
  *  @endcode
class TLC5940
      *  Set up the TLC5940
      *  @param SCLK - The SCK pin of the SPI bus
      *  @param MOSI - The MOSI pin of the SPI bus
      *  @param GSCLK - The GSCLK pin of the TLC5940(s)
      *  @param BLANK - The BLANK pin of the TLC5940(s)
      *  @param XLAT - The XLAT pin of the TLC5940(s)
      *  @param nchips - The number of TLC5940s (if you are daisy chaining)
    TLC5940(PinName SCLK, PinName MOSI, PinName GSCLK, PinName BLANK, PinName XLAT, int nchips)
        : sdma(DMAch_TLC5940),
          spi(MOSI, NC, SCLK),
        // start up initially disabled
        enabled = false;
        // set XLAT to initially off
        xlat = 0;
        // Assert BLANK while starting up, to keep the outputs turned off until
        // everything is stable.  This helps prevent spurious flashes during startup.
        // (That's not particularly important for lights, but it matters more for
        // tactile devices.  It's a bit alarming to fire a replay knocker on every
        // power-on, for example.)
        blank = 1;
        // Configure SPI format and speed.  Note that KL25Z ONLY supports 8-bit
        // mode.  The TLC5940 nominally requires 12-bit data blocks for the
        // grayscale levels, but SPI is ultimately just a bit-level serial format,
        // so we can reformat the 12-bit blocks into 8-bit bytes to fit the 
        // KL25Z's limits.  This should work equally well on other microcontrollers 
        // that are more flexible.  The TLC5940 requires polarity/phase format 0.
        spi.format(8, 0);
        // Send out a full data set to the chips, to clear out any random
        // startup data from the registers.  Include some extra bits - there
        // are some cases (such as after sending dot correct commands) where
        // an extra bit per chip is required, and the initial state is 
        // somewhat unpredictable, so send extra just to make sure we cover
        // all bases.  This does no harm; extra bits just fall off the end of
        // the daisy chain, and since we want all registers set to 0, we can
        // send arbitrarily many extra 0's.
        for (int i = 0 ; i < nchips*25 ; ++i)
        // do an initial XLAT to latch all of these "0" values into the
        // grayscale registers
        xlat = 1;
        xlat = 0;

        // Allocate our DMA buffers.  The transfer on each cycle is 192 bits per
        // chip = 24 bytes per chip.  Allocate two buffers, so that we have a
        // stable buffer that we can send to the chips, and a separate working
        // copy that we can asynchronously update.
        dmalen = nchips*24;
        livebuf = new uint8_t[dmalen*2];
        memset(livebuf, 0, dmalen*2);
        // start with buffer 0 live, with no new data pending
        workbuf = livebuf + dmalen;
        dirty = false;

        // Set up the Simple DMA interface object.  We use the DMA controller to
        // send grayscale data updates to the TLC5940 chips.  This lets the CPU
        // keep running other tasks while we send gs updates, and importantly
        // allows our blanking interrupt handler return almost immediately.
        // The DMA transfer is from our internal DMA buffer to SPI0, which is
        // the SPI controller physically connected to the TLC5940s.
        sdma.source(livebuf, true, 8);
        sdma.destination(&SPI0->D, false, 8);
        sdma.attach(this, &TLC5940::dmaDone);
        // Configure the GSCLK output's frequency
        // mark that we need an initial update
        dirty = true;
        needXlat = false;
    // Global enable/disble.  When disabled, we assert the blanking signal
    // continuously to keep all outputs turned off.  This can be used during
    // startup and sleep mode to prevent spurious output signals from
    // uninitialized grayscale registers.  The chips have random values in
    // their internal registers when power is first applied, so we have to 
    // explicitly send the initial zero levels after power cycling the chips.
    // The chips might not have power even when the KL25Z is running, because
    // they might be powered from a separate power supply from the KL25Z
    // (the Pinscape Expansion Boards work this way).  Global blanking helps
    // us start up more cleanly by suppressing all outputs until we can be
    // reasonably sure that the various chip registers are initialized.
    void enable(bool f)
        // note the new setting
        enabled = f;
        // if disabled, apply blanking immediately
        if (!f)
            blank = 1;
        // do a full update with the new setting
        dirty = true;
    // Start the clock running
    void start()
        // Set up the first call to the reset function, which asserts BLANK to
        // end the PWM cycle and handles new grayscale data output and latching.
        // The original version of this library uses a timer to call reset
        // periodically, but that approach is somewhat problematic because the
        // reset function itself takes a small amount of time to run, so the
        // *actual* cycle is slightly longer than what we get from counting
        // GS clocks.  Running reset on a timer therefore causes the calls to
        // slip out of phase with the actual full cycles, which causes 
        // premature blanking that shows up as visible flicker.  To get the
        // reset cycle to line up exactly with a full PWM cycle, it works
        // better to set up a new timer on each cycle, *after* we've finished
        // with the somewhat unpredictable overhead of the interrupt handler.
        // This seems to get us close enough to exact alignment with the cycle 
        // phase to eliminate visible artifacts.
        resetTimer.attach(this, &TLC5940::reset, (1.0/GSCLK_SPEED)*4096.0);
      *  Set an output
    void set(int idx, unsigned short data) 
        // validate the index
        if (idx >= 0 && idx < nchips*16)
            // this is a critical section, since we're updating a static buffer and
            // can call this routine from application context or interrupt context
            // If the buffer isn't dirty, it means that the previous working buffer
            // was swapped into the live buffer on the last blanking interval.  This
            // means that the working buffer hasn't been updated to the live data yet,
            // so we need to copy it now.
            if (!dirty) 
                memcpy(workbuf, livebuf, dmalen);
                dirty = true;

            // Figure the DMA buffer location of the data.  The DMA buffer has the
            // packed bit format that we send across the wire, with 12 bits per output,
            // arranged from last output to first output (N = number of outputs = nchips*16):
            //       byte 0  =  high 8 bits of output N-1
            //            1  =  low 4 bits of output N-1 | high 4 bits of output N-2
            //            2  =  low 8 bits of N-2
            //            3  =  high 8 bits of N-3
            //            4  =  low 4 bits of N-3 | high 4 bits of N-2
            //            5  =  low 8bits of N-4
            //           ...
            //  24*nchips-3  =  high 8 bits of output 1
            //  24*nchips-2  =  low 4 bits of output 1 | high 4 bits of output 0
            //  24*nchips-1  =  low 8 bits of output 0
            // So this update will affect two bytes.  If the output number if even, we're
            // in the high 4 + low 8 pair; if odd, we're in the high 8 + low 4 pair.
            int di = nchips*24 - 3 - (3*(idx/2));
            if (idx & 1)
                // ODD = high 8 | low 4
                workbuf[di]    = uint8_t((data >> 4) & 0xff);
                workbuf[di+1] &= 0x0F;
                workbuf[di+1] |= uint8_t((data << 4) & 0xf0);
                // EVEN = high 4 | low 8
                workbuf[di+1] &= 0xF0;
                workbuf[di+1] |= uint8_t((data >> 8) & 0x0f);
                workbuf[di+2]  = uint8_t(data & 0xff);
            // end the critical section
    // Update the outputs.  We automatically update the outputs on the grayscale timer
    // when we have pending changes, so it's not necessary to call this explicitly after 
    // making a change via set().  This can be called to force an update when the chips
    // might be out of sync with our internal state, such as after power-on.
    void update(bool force = false)
        if (force)
            dirty = true;

    // current level for each output
    unsigned short *gs;
    // Simple DMA interface object
    SimpleDMA sdma;

    // DMA transfer buffers - double buffer.  Each time we have data to transmit to the 
    // TLC5940 chips, we format the data into the working half of this buffer exactly as 
    // it will go across the wire, then hand the buffer to the DMA controller to move 
    // through the SPI port.  This memory block is actually two buffers, one live and 
    // one pending.  When we're ready to send updates to the chips, we swap the working
    // buffer into the live buffer so that we can send the latest updates.  We keep a
    // separate working copy so that our live copy is stable, so that we don't alter
    // any data in the midst of an asynchronous DMA transmission to the chips.
    uint8_t *volatile livebuf;
    uint8_t *volatile workbuf;
    // length of each DMA buffer, in bytes - 12 bits = 1.5 bytes per output, 16 outputs
    // per chip -> 24 bytes per chip
    uint16_t dmalen;
    // Dirty: true means that the non-live buffer has new pending data.  False means
    // that the non-live buffer is empty.
    bool dirty;
    // Enabled: this enables or disables all outputs.  When this is true, we assert the
    // BLANK signal continuously.
    bool enabled;
    // SPI port - only MOSI and SCK are used
    SPI spi;

    // use a PWM out for the grayscale clock - this provides a stable
    // square wave signal without consuming CPU
    PwmOut gsclk;

    // Digital out pins used for the TLC5940
    DigitalOut blank;
    DigitalOut xlat;
    // number of daisy-chained TLC5940s we're controlling
    int nchips;

    // Timeout to end each PWM cycle.  This is a one-shot timer that we reset
    // on each cycle.
    Timeout resetTimer;
    // Do we need an XLAT signal on the next blanking interval?
    volatile bool needXlat;
    volatile bool newGSData;//$$$

    // Reset the grayscale cycle and send the next data update
    void reset()
        // start the blanking cycle
        // if we have pending grayscale data, update the DMA data
        /*$$$bool*/ newGSData = false;
        uint8_t *dmasrc;
        if (dirty) 
            // swap live and working buffers
            uint8_t *tmp = livebuf;
            livebuf = workbuf;
            workbuf = tmp;
            // Set the new DMA source.  Set the starting address in the
            // DMA controller to the *second* byte, since we have to send
            // the first byte via the CPU instead of DMA - this is required
            // because of a problematic interaction that occurs if the DMA
            // controller initiates the transfer; the problem is outlined 
            // in the KL25Z hardware reference manual.
            dmasrc = livebuf;
            sdma.source(livebuf + 1, true, 8);            
            // no longer dirty
            dirty = false;
            // note the new data
            newGSData = true;
        else //$$$
            // send all 1 bits for diagnostics - in case of XLAT
            // glitches, this turns all outputs on, which makes the
            // glitch immediately apparent
            static uint8_t dummy = 0xff;
            dmasrc = &dummy;
            sdma.source(&dummy, false, 8); 
        } //$$$

        // We're configured to send new GS data during the GS cycle,
        // not during the blanking interval, so end the blanking
        // interval now, before we start sending the new data.  Ending
        // the blanking interval starts the new GS cycle.
        // (For the other configuration, we send GS data during the
        // blanking interval, so in that case we DON'T end the blanking
        // interval yet - we defer that until the end-of-DMA interrupt
        // handler, which fires after the GS data send has completed.)

        // send out the DMA contents if we have new data
        //$$$if (newGSData)
            // The hardware reference manual says that the CPU has to send
            // the first byte of a DMA transfer explicitly.  This is required
            // to avoid a hardware deadlock condition that happens due to
            // a timing interaction between the SPI and DMA controllers.
            // The correct sequence per the manual is:
            //  - set up the DMA registers, starting at the 2nd byte to send
            //  - write the first byte directly to the SPI data register
            //  - enable TXDMAE in the SPI controller
            sdma.start(dmalen - 1);
            SPI0->C2 |= SPI_C2_TXDMAE_MASK;

    void startBlank()
        // turn off the grayscale clock, and assert BLANK to end the grayscale cycle
        blank = 0;  // for a slight delay - chip requires 20ns GSCLK up to BLANK up
        blank = 1;        
    void endBlank()
        // if we've sent new grayscale data since the last blanking
        // interval, latch it by asserting XLAT
        if (needXlat)
            // latch the new data while we're still blanked
            xlat = 1;
            xlat = 0;
            needXlat = false;

        // End the blanking interval and restart the grayscale clock.  Note
        // that we keep the blanking on if the chips are globally disabled.
        blank = enabled ? 0 : 1;
        // set up the next blanking interrupt
        resetTimer.attach(this, &TLC5940::reset, (1.0/GSCLK_SPEED)*4096.0);
    // Interrupt handler for DMA completion.  The DMA controller calls this
    // when it finishes with the transfer request we set up above.  When the
    // transfer is done, we simply end the blanking cycle and start a new
    // grayscale cycle.    
    void dmaDone()
        // disable DMA triggering in the SPI controller until we set
        // up the next transfer
        SPI0->C2 &= ~SPI_C2_TXDMAE_MASK;

        // mark that we need to assert XLAT to latch the new
        // grayscale data during the next blanking interval
        needXlat = newGSData;//$$$ true;
        // we're doing the gs update within the blanking cycle, so end
        // the blanking cycle now that the transfer has completed