I'm making a project and I'm using multiple 1 digit 7 segment displays. I haven't plugged them all on my arduino because currently I'm just testing. The problem is on the I/O ports. Obviously I need to use shift registers and since it's my first time ever using them I need to know more about them. After googling, I found that the specific model I bought outputs 8 pins and you can stack up to 8 in series. So lets do the math. 8 shift register x 8 pins each SR = 64 new pins It seems cool but assuming I'm using 28 displays let's do the math again. 28 displays, each display has 8 pins (8 for segments and 2 as common cathode) 28 x 8 = 224 required pins. Is is possible to expand the I/O pins by 224 pins? How many shift registers can I stack together? Also which is better, the single digit display or the 4 digit display?

2 Answers 2


You can chain as many shift registers as you want.

Most commonly, these displays are multiplexed. Only one digit is lit at a time, cycling though all the digits fast enough, so the eye can't tell. This is however not very good practice for 28 digits, as the brightness will become 1/28th (though you could create groups of digits, and multiplex those groups separately).

There are specialized chips that do this multiplexing for you. E.g. the Max7219. This chip can multiplex 8 digits, with 8 segments. So you'd need 4 of these to light up 28 digits.


You can buy these displays on eBay for a few dollars. A bit of soldering and you are done (although also pre-assembled ones are available). They can be daisy-chained. Example:

6 x 4-digit 7-segment display modules

You only need 5 wires to the Arduino: Gnd/5V/MOSI/SCK/SCK.

modules in operation

Also, 64-dot displays for displaying arbitrary text:

8x8 LED matrix

Again, only 5 wires.

I have Arduino libraries for driving both sorts of display on Interfacing LED displays with the MAX7219 driver .

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