This is a truly hands-on approach to learning. [Kevin Darrah] ditched the microcontroller and is using push buttons to learn about 595 shift registers. The test rig uses two of the serial-in, parallel-out chips. These are cascading which means that as data from the first chip overflows it feeds the input of the second. The parts are commonly used to drive LEDs, or reduce the number of pins needed to drive peripherals like this character LCD.
The five push-buttons give you a chance to intuitively learn how the chip logic works. The blank button is also commonly called Output Enable (OE). Driving it high shuts off the outputs of the chips but doesn’t clear the data. That task is performed by the clear button which is driven low to set all of the shift register memory to zero. The other three buttons set the logic level, shift it into the chip using the clock signal, and push the stored values to the outputs using the latch.
To get a visual approximation of what’s happening inside of these chips you should check out the shift register tutorial linked to in this post.