to get the old laptop screen to work would require a controller card. They are $300 (for the VGA ones, I dunno about B/W) from www.flat-panel.com
I know nothing about character LCD's, so I cant help you there.
Everything is dependant on how much money you are willing to spend. Personally, I wouldnt waste the money needed to get a B/W screen to work, but it's up to you.