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Circuit Breaker

Vestaboard brings the internet to old-school mechanical split-flap displays

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The most satisfying way to get Slack notifications

Split-flap mechanical signs are sadly a relic of a bygone era. The famous, clacking boards were once used in train stations all over the world, but advances in technology have retired most of them in favor of boring digital displays.

At CES 2018, split-flap displays are getting a second life with the Vestaboard, an internet-connected mechanical display that merges the classic clattering flaps of a retro train board with modern internet technology.

The display can show up to 161 characters at a time in a 23 x 7 grid, with each character offering 70 different options to display (the 26 letters of the alphabet, the 10 roman numerals, 8 solid colors, and a variety of punctuation marks). Vestaboard has posted a video showing how each character block rotates through the flaps, producing that lovely clacking sound when the display changes messages. The company says that the Vestaboard is roughly the size of a 42-inch TV, and can be run off a standard 3-plug wall outlet.

Image: Vestaboard

Of course, this is CES, so it wouldn’t be complete without some sort of Wi-Fi integration, and the Vestaboard delivers with a connected app that lets you customize messages for the board, which can be sourced from Twitter, Slack, IFTTT, Google Calendar, and more. You’ll also be able to subscribe to popular pre-set messages, like quotes or song lyrics. The company points out that with an ability to display 161 characters, it’s perfect for a super-retro Twitter feed (or at least, it used to be before Twitter doubled the character count).

There is one downside to the Vestaboard, though: the price. The company has it available for preorder with an estimated December 2018 delivery date for an eye-watering $1,850, which is actually a massive 45-percent discount off the final $3,495 price tag. That’s a lot to pay for a notification board, no matter how cool.