Nixie Sudoku

[John Sarik] asked himself why a project should only have a handful of Nixie tubes? Without a good answer to his query he went ahead and built this Sudoku game using 81 Nixie tubes. There’s not much of a description for his work but here’s how we think things go: The two knobs manipulate a cursor, one for rows and the other for columns, while the keypad is used to input your chosen number. The system is Arduino based and [John's] linked to his code, schematic, and board layout files on Dropbox. He’s even written a recursive solver which can be seen in the video after the break. Would it be inappropriate to bring this to work and whip it out during some down time?

[Thanks async1ronous]


  1. Brennan says:

    Nice, I like it! The solver algorithm is a good inclusion. If he REALLY wants to impress people though, he should build a Sudoku generator that cranks out unique puzzles with exactly one correct solution using a reverse-solver algorithm.

  2. The DON says:

    The algorithm for solving the puzzle appears to be little more than a brute force attack.

    I programmed what I considered to be a pretty lame suduko game which would solve (or nearly solve leaving 12 or so blanks) the puzzle in 4 iterations, using the rules of suduko.

    That said, I like it… roll on mark II

  3. Aged Cheddar says:

    Heh-heh, I’d get detained and searched thoroughly if I attempted to take this to work.

    Excuse me while I whip this out! (indeed):0 – Gotta love Mel Brooks flicks.

    This is pretty cool. Far more fun than anything I’ve done lately.

  4. svofski says:

    That’s a lot of nixies, coolness!

  5. Aaron says:

    Holy crap, extra bonus points for the keypad that looks like it came out of a Radio Shack tone dialer from 1985.

  6. Alton says:

    And no flaming yet about the use of an Arduino? I think this is probably one of the best uses for one shown on this site yet!

  7. HackerK says:

    This is beautiful!
    @Alton I agree….
    Now give us a PIC version! :)

  8. David says:

    How much? I would actually play sudoku with this

  9. mikey says:

    yeah, i’d pay for this too! it’s totally awesome!

  10. @Brennan, The Don: Hardware is more fun than software. But a self generating, self solving puzzle would be awesome. I’ll see what I can do.

    @HackerK It would be really easy to build a PIC version. You just need 9 digital outputs for some shift registers, 5 digital I/Os for the keypad, and two analog inputs for the knobs. But I’ve already picked my side.

    @David, mikey I have some spare development boards if you’re interested. They have some minor mistakes, but nothing you can’t fix with some creative wiring.

  11. Hirudinea says:

    It looks like the nuclear bomb from “Goldfinger”!

  12. matseng says:

    Really nice!

    I started on a similar project 3-4 years ago, but I never finished it. The reason of that was that I never got the touch grid sensors that I put over the tubes to accurately detect my fingers. Still got 100 IN-17 tubes sitting on my shelf….

    I think I’ll give it another shot this summer and see if I can get it working this time.

  13. strider_mt2k says:

    That is really nice!

    Yeah the keypad says “Rad Shack ’79” but that is no bad thing.

    Extremely cool!

  14. Eric says:

    Damn, and It was just yesterday when I was trying to think of some creative nixie hacks that aren’t a lame clock or steampunk turd.

  15. mikey says:

    trashbear: there’s no contact info on your website. :(

  16. @mikey. Sorry about that. I’m new to this whole blogging thing. I added my email address on the about page.

  17. SpeedBall says:

    Superb use of technology that is older than I am (60 or so) !

  18. This is a beautiful project. You just can’t go wrong with a Nixie display! I really love the old school vibe he kept throughout the project as well. The vintage RS keypad looks sweet.

  19. Rob in Belfast says:


    Why do we have lame 7-seg displays?

    Nixie’s rock!

    Hell, yeah!

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