Over-engineered clock finds purpose as RSS reader

[Bob Alexander] admits that he over-engineered his clock, giving it eight control buttons, eight twelve-segment alpha-numeric display digits, a GPS module as a time source, and a beefy microcontroller to boot. But he’s found a way to get more for his money out of the device by adding RSS and weather features to it.

Since he’s using the PIC 18F4550 it’s a snap to add USB connectivity. From there he wrote a fantastic PC-side application for communicating with the display. Now he has the option of displaying time, RSS feeds, or weather by scrolling through the options with one of the buttons. Perhaps the best feature is the option to launch a browser on the PC and view the current story just by pressing a button on the display. Check out the two demos after the break; one shows the clock features and the other demonstrates the C# software.

Clock  features

Software features


  1. BadWolf says:

    If he didn’t plan those uses at first,it’s a fail.
    Overdoing (and obviously overpricing) isn’t good while designing something.

  2. syd says:

    Is that what i think it is in the background? Looks like the 6809 version of the IMSAI microcomputer – circa 1975ish…..

  3. John Smith says:

    Nice Altair in the background!

  4. Andrew Parting says:

    I think this is great. The gps as a source of time is awesome. And since he’s done it all round ott he has plenty of room for features! Love this kind of stuff

  5. Microguy says:

    Yeah, I thought maybe he was using that Altair in the background to do this clock, now that would be over engineering.

    I do like the GPS module as a time source though, quick and simple compared to receiving the radio signals and decoding them. (well, different radio signals anyway)

  6. woutervddn says:

    Although I’m wondering about the use of the other 4 buttons or so, I like this hack. It might not give that much of extra value to your desk but it’s nice to see that this CAN be done.
    The implementations are endless: email, remember the milk, twitter, facebook, new HaD article.. I like it, despite it being a total overflow of buttons :p

  7. Bob says:

    BadWolf, I did plan it that way from the beginning. When I designed the clock’s display board, I put in traces for a USB connector and the buttons, even though neither was used by the clock.

    As for overdoing and overpricing: you’re right that it’s a very bad thing to do when you plan to manufacture a product. But this is a hobby project. The goal isn’t to produce an economical clock or an economical LED display; the goal is to have fun. And overdesign can be fun! :-)

  8. Bob says:

    man, I want that Altair!

  9. tooth says:

    @bob I 2nd that. I was going to say the same thing.
    I have noticed there are a lot of nay sayers in this here site. A bit more than i would think for the type of site it is to.

    That clock is sweet. I love to over do things. that extra not so necessary feature makes it that much more fun.

  10. Hell yeah, like that Altair in that background!

  11. Bob says:

    @syd, it’s not a 6809 IMSAI (??). It’s a small form factor Altair 8800 replica with a modern PC (Core i5) inside. Details are at http://galacticstudios.org/altair

  12. syd says:

    I am getting too old and my memory has to stretch sooooo far back – the first CPM computer I played with the the IMSAI – see http://www.imsai.net/ – they have a pc case version also… What a great BDay present to myself……

  13. t&p says:

    I see altair 8800 is shy

  14. zebobbybird says:

    If you have the resources there is no such thing as over-engineering. Only under-utilizing.

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