Starting Electronics needs your help! Please make a donation to help cover our hosting and other costs. Click the donate button to send a donation of any amount.

Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) for Beginners in Electronics

Created on: 30 July 2012

A Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) can be of the character type or graphics type. Graphic LCD displays have a matrix of pixels that can be used to display text and graphics, e.g. 128 by 64 pixel display. When starting electronics, a character LCD will usually be used.

Character LCDs

Character LCDs can display characters only and are divided into rows of characters. For example a 2 by 16 character LCD display has two lines that can display 16 characters each. An example of a 2 × 16 character display is shown below.

Liquid crystal display (LCD) character type
2 by 16 Character Liquid Crystal Display or LCD


LCDs are available with or without a backlight. A backlight is just a light in the LCD that lights up the display making it easier to read in low light conditions.

Manufacturers and Pin Numbering

There are a number of character LCDs based on the Hitachi HD44780 LCD controller and driver IC. These displays are software compatible and available from several different manufacturers. There are even pin compatible character LCDs that are available from different manufacturers. Always check the datasheet from the manufacturer to make sure of the pin numbering and pin functions of the LCD display that you are going to use.

The LCD display below shows pin numbering for a display that is available from Truly and Powertip. The part numbers are:
Truly: MSC-C162DYLY-4N
Powertip: PC1602LRS-FWA-B

It is possible that other displays are also compatible with this one. If a backlight is not present, then pin 1 and 2 may be missing. Other LCDs may have the pins at the top and pin numbering may start with 1 on the left.

LCD pin numbering
Pin Numbering of a 2 by 16 Character LCD
Pin Name Function
1 Anode Backlight Anode (+)
2 Cathode Backlight Cathode (-)
3 VSS 0V (GND)
4 VDD +5V
5 V0 Contrast
6 RS Register select
7 R/W Read / Write
8 E Enable
9 DB0 Data bit 0
10 DB1 Data bit 1
11 DB2 Data bit 2
12 DB3 Data bit 3
13 DB4 Data bit 4
14 DB5 Data bit 5
15 DB6 Data bit 6
16 DB7 Data bit 7

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases: