C Library for SSD1306 OLED Display and ATtiny85

C Library for SSD1306 OLED Display and ATtiny85

It isn’t hard to get one of those OLED displays from eBay or another place. They are usually controlled by SSD1306 chip – one of the most popular. Such displays could be used for a number of things – from just learning to control them and showing some text/numbers/graphics, display sensors’ data or even creating a small game.

SSD1306 OLED Display
SSD1306 OLED Display

Back in 2014, we wrote a small library for the ATtiny85 microcontroller to work with such displays and we called it SSD1306xLED after the name of the controlling chip for the display.

Here is a link to check what’s for sale now:
http://www.ebay.com / OLED 128 64


  1. This library works with the display modules that use the I2C protocol. This is important to know since there are other similar displays that use the same SSD1306 controller but communicate over the SPI interface. In that case, our library will not work. We use, in most cases, the modules with 4 pins – GND, Vcc, SCL, SDA.
  2. Although using the I2C interface, our SSD1306xLED library does not implement the I2C protocol but just a subset of it enough to accomplish the task of sending commands and data to the display. This comes with 2 great advantages: (1) it is super fast; (2) is super small – more details about those characteristics will be outlined below.

The library is, of course, open source and all the software is available at https://bitbucket.org/tinusaur/ssd1306xled/

The I2CSW sub-library

This is a small sub-library that implements a subset of the I2C protocols that is necessary to send some commands and data out. I2CSW stands for “I2C Simple Writer” and as its name implies it only writes out.

There are 2 macros to sent the SCL and SDA wires to high and to low, or, or 1 and 0.

Then, there are 3 low-level functions:
— void i2csw_start(void);
— void i2csw_stop(void);
— void i2csw_byte(uint8_t byte);

The i2csw_start function sets the SCL and SDA pins as output and the “start” condition. In other words, it lets the devices connected to the microcontroller know that we are about to send something out.

The i2csw_stop function sets the “stop” condition. This indicates that we have finished with sending the data. It also set the SDA pin as input so it won’t keep the SDA line at HIGH all the time.

SSD1306 I2C Start and Stop Condition
SSD1306 I2C Start and Stop Condition

The i2csw_byte function sends one byte of data out. It is used to send commands and data to the I2C devices – the display in our case.

SSD1306 I2C Acknowledgment Condition
SSD1306 I2C Acknowledgment Condition

NOTE: The I2CSW library does not handle the acknowledgment condition.

The ssd1306 core functions

There are 4 core functions in the library at the moment:
— void ssd1306_start_command(void);
— void ssd1306_start_data(void);
— void ssd1306_data_byte(uint8_t);
— void ssd1306_stop(void);

The ssd1306_start_command function indicates to the connected I2C devices that we’re about to send commands. This is used to configure the controller o to set some parameters such as the current position on the display.

The ssd1306_start_data function indicates to the connected I2C devices that we’re about to send some data. This is used to send some data to the display controller – like bitmaps or text.

The ssd1306_data_byte function sends 2 bytes of data to the display controller. That is used for both commands and data.

The ssd1306_stop function indicates that we have finished transmitting data.

SSD1306 I2C Write data
SSD1306 I2C Write data

The ssd1306 supplementary functions

These are convenience functions:
— void ssd1306_init(void);
— void ssd1306_setpos(uint8_t x, uint8_t y);
— void ssd1306_fill4(uint8_t, uint8_t, uint8_t, uint8_t);

The ssd1306_init function sends a sequence of commands that will initialize the display controller so it will work the way we expect.

The ssd1306_setpos function sets the current position on the display. Sending data after this command will display it at that position.

From the documentation:

Horizontal addressing mode (A[1:0]=00b)

In horizontal addressing mode, after the display RAM is read/written, the column address pointer is increased automatically by 1. If the column address pointer reaches column end address, the column address pointer is reset to column start address and page address pointer is increased by 1. The sequence of movement of the page and column address point for horizontal addressing mode is shown in Figure 10-3. When both column and page address pointers reach the end address, the pointers are reset to column start address and page start address (Dotted line in Figure 10-3.)

Solomon Systech Apr 2008 P 42/59 Rev 1.1 SSD1306
SSD1306 I2C Horizontal addressing mode
SSD1306 I2C Horizontal addressing mode

The ssd1306_fill4 function fills out the screen with the 4 bytes specified as parameters. The reason for 4 bytes is that it is convenient for filling out with patterns.

There are 3 other functions derived from the ssd1306_fill4 function:
ssd1306_clear() – clears the screen, i.e. fills it out with “0”.
ssd1306_fill(p) – fills the display with the specified byte.
ssd1306_fill2(p1, p2) – fills the display with the 2 specified bytes.

The testing scripts demonstrate the purpose and usage of those functions.

The testing in the “ssd1306xled_test1” folder

Source code at https://bitbucket.org/tinusaur/ssd1306xled/src/default/ssd1306xled_test1/main.c

This testing script demonstrates the use of the functions in the library.

The first section fills out the screen with random values using a Linear congruential generator.

SSD1306 Library SSD1306xLED Testing Script
SSD1306 Library SSD1306xLED Testing Script

The second section fills out the screen with a sequential number that creates some patterns on the screen.

SSD1306 Library SSD1306xLED Testing Script
SSD1306 Library SSD1306xLED Testing Script

The next section fills out the screen line by line.

SSD1306 Library SSD1306xLED Testing Script
SSD1306 Library SSD1306xLED Testing Script

The last section fills out the screen with various patterns.

More functions …

There are more functions in the SSD1306xLED library such as for printing text and numbers on the screen and drawing images but that will be subject of another article.

Please, share your thoughts!

C Library for ATtiny85 to Work with SSD1306 Controlled OLED Display

I recently bought an OLED display 128×64 from eBay (http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_nkw=OLED+128) – very inexpensive (about 4 euro) but when I finally received it I was surprised to see how small it was – I was expecting something that looked more like the Nokia 3310 LCD. So I thought – this is perfect for the Tinusaur Project. The 128×64 OLED is controlled by a SSD1306 circuit and could be interfaced over I²C. The first challenge that I faced was that all existing libraries that I found were for Arduino boards … and I wrote my own based, of course, on existing code – the SSD1306xLED library.

SSD1306xLED library for OLED/PLED 128x64

SSD1306xLED is a C library for working with the SSD1306 display driver to control dot matrix OLED/PLED 128×64 displays. It is intended to be used with the Tinusaur board but should also work with any other board based on ATtiny85 or similar microcontroller – ATtiny45/ATtiny25, even ATtiny13.

The code could be divided in 3 pieces: (1) communication over I²C with the SSD1306; (2) sending graphical commands to the display; (3) high-level functions such as printing characters.

The I²C communication part is based on modified IIC_wtihout_ACK library that is available on the Internet but its original website (http://www.14blog.com/archives/1358) is no longer functional. Basically, it made it to work on ATtiny85 and Tinusaur.

The SSD1306xLED library still needs work and improvements.

The main location for the library is SSD1306xLED page.

The source code along with very simple example is available on Bitbucket at this address: https://bitbucket.org/tinusaur/ssd1306xled