How to build an inexpensive 0.01 GigaPixel display

The 0.01 Gigapixel (11,796,480 pixels) is the an easy and inexpensive first step to acquiring a larger display. These steps construct a 9 monitor 3x3 tiled LCD array on a single Windows PC.

Figure 1: Picture of the 0.01
pixel display with North America and part of South America displayed.

In order to create our 3x3 cluster of monitors we had to find a monitor that had both a small bezel (the border surrounding the monitor) and a removable stand. We found a Dell monitor (17-inch Dell UltraSharp 1703FP flat panel LCD monitor) that met our requirements.

Figure 2: Dell UltraSharp 1703FP 17-inch flat panel LCD monitor used in the 0.01 Gigapixel display front and side views.

Removing the UltraSharp's monitor from the stand is simple as there is a button on the back of the monitor. Figure 3 shows the monitor removed from the stand. Upon removing the monitor one can notice that there is a squarish steel holder that supports the monitor.

Figure 3: UltraSharp monitor stand shown with monitor on left and without on the right.

The first picture of figure 4 shows the steel monitor support before being removed from the stand. As we wished to have all nine monitors aligned together it became necessary to find a way make a custom stand. As a result we spent $30.00 at a local hardware store and bought 5 2x4 wood beams and about 100 screws. By using a table saw, a power drill, and a screwdriver we were able to quickly build a custom wood stand to support all nine monitors. The right picture of figure 4 shows the steel support screwed into the wood support structure. Figure 5 shows the finished wood structure.

Figure 4: UltraSharp monitor support on stand on left and on wood frame on right.

Figure 5: The left picture shows the underlying wood stand while the right picture shows the completed display from a side view.    

We recommend angling the left and right columns of displays inward for better visibility.  This can be done by constructing separate stands for each column. Figure 5a shows how we did this on our much larger LCD array.

Figure 5a:  Separate stands for each column enable curving the display around the user for better visibility of the sides.

In order to run the 0.01 Gigapixel display we used a Dell Optiplex GX270 PC which runs at 2.66 GHz and has 2 Gigabytes of RAM. The Optiplex came preinstalled with a digital graphics card (Nvidia GeForce 5200 FX) that has a splitter (black connector that plugs into the top card [the only non-blue one] in figure6) that uses the AGP bus. In order to use 7 more monitors we installed 4 dual-head graphics cards (all Nvidia Geforce 5200 FXs) in the four PCI slots.

Figure 6: Shows the cables that come of the back of the PC that plug into the five graphics cards.

The Optiplex is a dual-boot machine that has Windows XP and Fedora Core 1 Linux (from RedHat). The Windows operating system, detected all the graphics cards automatically and all 9 monitors. We were able to easily configure all nine monitors in less than five minutes using the GUI provided by Windows (see figure 7).  UltraMon is a handy software utility to help manage multi-screen layouts.

Windows Config picture
Figure 7: A screenshot of the GUI provided by Windows to easily configure monitors.

Linux also automatically detected all the graphics cards and all 9 monitors. However, Linux was not nearly so friendly when configuring the monitors. RedHat currently has a tool that automatically sets up two monitors side-by-side, but not anything beyond that. As a result we had to learn how to change the XF86Config file by hand. The XF86Config file is the file responsible for configuring external devices (such as mice, keyboards, graphics cards, and monitors) for the graphical X Server used in Linux. The config file can usually be found in the /etc/X11/ directory. For more information on the XF86Config file see the XFree86 website at We were unable to find any examples of how to configure more than three monitors in Linux. As a result it took us over 7 hours to configure our nine monitors correctly in Linux. Our XF86Config file can be found here as a reference (the file was renamed to "XF86Config.txt" to help some browsers. It should just be "XF86Config" - no extension).

The final result is shown in figure 8. The two developers of the 0.01 Gigapixel display are: Robert (Bob) Ball (left) and Dr. Chris North (right).

Figure 8: The developers of the 0.01 Gigapixel display, from left to right: Robert (Bob) Ball, Dr. Chris North