Multiplexing Input or Output on a Raspberry Pi Part 1: Shift Registers (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Tue, 13 Feb 2018

Multiplexing Input or Output on a Raspberry Pi Part 1: Shift Registers

I was scouting for parts at a thrift shop and spotted a little 23-key music keyboard. It looked like a fun Raspberry Pi project.

I was hoping it would turn out to use some common protocol like I2C, but when I dissected it, it turned out there was a ribbon cable with 32 wires coming from the keyboard. So each key is a separate pushbutton.

[23-key keyboard wired to a Raspberry Pi] A Raspberry Pi doesn't have that many GPIO pins, and neither does an Arduino Uno. An Arduino Mega does, but buying a Mega to go between the Pi and the keyboard kind of misses the point of scavenging a $3 keyboard; I might as well just buy an I2C or MIDI keyboard. So I needed some sort of I/O multiplexer that would let me read 31 keys using a lot fewer pins.

There are a bunch of different approaches to multiplexing. A lot of keyboards use a matrix approach, but that makes more sense when you're wiring up all the buttons from scratch, not starting with a pre-wired keyboard like this. The two approaches I'll discuss here are shift registers and multiplexer chips.

If you just want to get the job done in the most efficient way, you definitely want a multiplexer (port expander) chip, which I'll cover in Part 2. But for now, let's look at the old-school way: shift registers.

PISO Shift Registers

There are lots of types of shift registers, but for reading lots of inputs, you need a PISO shift register: "Parallel In, Serial Out." That means you can tell the chip to read some number -- typically 8 -- of inputs in parallel, then switch into serial mode and read all the bits one at a time.

Some PISO shift registers can cascade: you can connect a second shift register to the first one and read twice as many bits. For 23 keys I needed three 8-bit shift registers.

Two popular cascading PISO shift registers are the CD4021 and the SN74LS165. They work similarly but they're not exactly the same.

The basic principle with both the CD4021 and the SN74LS165: connect power and ground, and wire up all your inputs to the eight data pins. You'll need pullup or pulldown resistors on each input line, just like you normally would for a pushbutton; I recommend picking up a few high-value (like 1-10k) resistor arrays: you can get these in SIP (single inline package) or DIP (dual-) form factors that plug easily into a breadboard. Resistor arrays can be either independent two pins for each resistor in the array) or bussed (one pin in the chip is a common pin, which you wire to ground for a pulldown or V+ for a pullup; each of the rest of the pins is a resistor). I find bussed networks particularly handy because they can reduce the number of wires you need to run, and with a job where you're multiplexing lots of lines, you'll find that getting the wiring straight is a big part of the job. (See the photo above to see what a snarl this was even with resistor networks.)

For the CD4021, connect three more pins: clock and data pins (labeled CLK and either Q7 or Q8 on the chip's pinout, pins 10 and 3), plus a "latch" pin (labeled M, pin 9). For the SN74LS165, you need one more pin: you need clock and data (labeled CP and Q7, pins 2 and 9), latch (labeled PL, pin 1), and clock enable (labeled CE, pin 15).

At least for the CD4021, some people recommend a 0.1 uF bypass capacitor across the power/ground connections of each CD4021.

If you need to cascade several chips with the CD4021, wire DS (pin 11) from the first chip to Q7 (pin 3), then wire both chips clock lines together and both chips' data lines together. The SN74LS165 is the same: DS (pin 10) to Q8 (pin 9) and tie the clock and data lines together.

Once wired up, you toggle the latch to read the parallel data, then toggle it again and use the clock pin to read the series of bits. You can see the specific details in my Python scripts: on GitHub and on GitHub.

Some References

For wiring diagrams, more background, and Arduino code for the CD4021, read Arduino ShiftIn. For the SN74LS165, read: Arduino: SN74HC165N, 74HC165 8 bit Parallel in/Serial out Shift Register, or Sparkfun: Shift Registers.

Of course, you can use a shift register for output as well as input. In that case you need a SIPO (Serial In, Parallel Out) shift register like a 74HC595. See Arduino ShiftOut: Serial to Parallel Shifting-Out with a 74HC595 Interfacing 74HC595 Serial Shift Register with Raspberry Pi. Another, less common option is the 74HC164N: Using a SN74HC164N Shift Register With Raspberry Pi

For input from my keyboard, initially I used three CD4021s. It basically worked, and you can see the code for it at (older version, for CD4021 shift registers), on GitHub.

But it turned out that looping over all those bits was slow -- I've been advised that you should wait at least 25 microseconds between bits for the CD4021, and even at 10 microseconds I found there wasa significant delay between hitting the key and hearing the note.I thought it might be all the fancy numpy code to generate waveforms for the chords, but when I used the Python profiler, it said most of the program's time was taken up in time.sleep(). Fortunately, there's a faster solution than shift registers: port expanders, which I'll talk about in Multiplexing Part 2: Port Expanders.

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[ 12:23 Feb 13, 2018    More hardware | permalink to this entry | comments ]
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