Neon lamp and other crazy clocks

Quick quiz, what came before transistors? Why vacuum tubes of course. If this clock doesn’t make you thankful for the luxury of integrated circuits, nothing will.

We had never heard of using Neon Lamps as logic circuits, and they definitely produce a much cooler effect when counting.
[Thanks Philippe]

And finally, we’re just suckers for a good Nixie Clock. The scope clock is also pretty interesting.


  1. Alexandre Terentiev says:

    How about a “transistor only” clock?

  2. Philippe says:

    That was posted the day before yesterday Alex.

  3. Santiago says:

    amazing! I noticed how he bundled the wires the old style using waxed string. how neat and clean design. JAW DROPPING!!! Congratulations!

  4. Peter says:

    The German digital clock using only vacuum tubes is incredible.

  5. Orv says:

    It is, although a real electronic clock from that era probably would have used Dekatrons as counters.

  6. Orv says:

    The Nixie clock is pretty cool. You can always pick out Russian Nixies by the way they use an upside-down “2” for the “5” digit.

  7. Philippe says:

    There is a little problem with the neon clock, it’s designed for 220/240V, here is a voltage doubler:

  8. Philippe says:

    And of course it has to be adapted from 50Hz to 60Hz, just add one stage on the first or second divider (6 neons instead of 5).

  9. ral says:

    The neon-lamp click is really cool, and I didn’t even know you could do that with those. Maybe I’ll have to check out some used book stores and such for old electronics books.

  10. tdw says:

    Here’s another one that uses Nixies and Neon lamps. Really active, cool clock:

  11. localroger says:

    I once considered doing something like the neon clock, but could not figure out how to drive the nixies from the ring counters.

  12. svofski says:

    This must not be overlooked:

    Also this:

    And this (by peret on avrfreaks):

  13. Philippe says:

    The nixie neon uses an Atmega328P… Way too easy… :-)

  14. Hirudinea says:

    That German tube clock is amazing, and if you run it you can turn off your furnace all winter.

  15. Roly says:

    Neon-CR relaxation oscillators can be used as fixed dividers and some organs have been based on them, but they need stable supplies and light-tight covering. And your clock/organ can double as a cosmic ray detector. I’ve seen neon flip flops, “tri-stables” (three neons) and ring-of-five counters. A popular arrangement for counters pre-silicon was the bi-stable ahead of a ring of five, decoding as odd and even drives to globes, neons &c.

  16. Stunmonkey says:

    That German clock was godlike.

    Hats off to the person with the right combination of multiple skillsets, patience, scrounging ability, genius, and outright insanity required to produce that work of art.

  17. markii says:

    I keep falling in love with nixie tubes over and over again. Am I crazy?

  18. Agent420 says:

    Now THESE are clocks! ;-)

    I’m thinking of using a real pendulum as the timebase for my next nixie…

  19. jec says:

    You just have to love the vacuum tube clock. It is built pretty as well as wired real pretty. Something the builder can be proud of!

    Phillipe, just for reference, the atmega328p does not run the lamps in the nixieneon. It just helps keep then telling the correct time periodically. Except to set the clock, it can be completely disabled as well. The rings are self feeding.

    Agent420, I like the idea of the pendulum, then you need to add the equivalence of an escapement but electromechanical. Something you can see in action unlike the hall or optical sensor.

  20. Agent420 says:

    ^ Yeah, I was thinking of using one of those big glass railroad relays I see on ebay from time to time… they don’t require much power, the workings are visible, and I’m sure they make a nice ‘click’ when they latch.

  21. strider_mt2k says:

    Oh man…relay porn.


  22. Orv says:

    Vital signal relays. Those are pretty cool. They’re designed, as much as possible, to always fail in a known state — the contacts are non-welding, and no return springs are used, just gravity. The idea is to wire things so the relay always fails in the most restrictive position (e.g., with the signal set to “danger”, not “clear”.)

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