Unusual 72-Bulb Display Mechanism Found in Vintage Clock

It’s hard to beat a vintage clock for something that you can hack, and that your significant other might actually let you display in your home. It’s practical and it’s art all at the same time! But, finding that perfect vintage clock for restoration can be a bit tricky. A crowd favorite is to choose something with intricate mechanisms and gears — the motion of a mechanical display is just so fascinating.


[Gavin] managed to find a clock that is every bit as interesting without any moving parts. The clock uses a unique system of bulbs and screen masks to project each digit of the time onto glass, which creates a pretty cool look you’re not likely to see on other devices. As cheap as LCD and 7-segment displays are these days, it’s hard to imagine a time when an intricate solution like this — using 72 light bulbs — was considered practical.

Of course, what isn’t practical is replacing 72 incandescent bulbs, just to have them start the process of burning out all over again. [Gavin’s] solution to this problem was to replace the incandescent bulbs with LEDs. After getting the color temperature right (to replicate the vintage warm glow), he was able to use a jig system to get the LEDs positioned correctly to project the digits properly.

This certainly isn’t the first time we’ve seen a unique clock design, but there is something intriguing about seeing a design like this that never quite caught on. It’s a little bit of technological history that even your significant other will think is cool.

A One LED Clock

Esoteric clocks are something of a staple among hardware hacker projects. If it can be made to tell the time correctly, even if only twice a day, the chances are someone’s made a clock from it. And if the only person who can read that clock is its creator, so much the better. Universal accessibility is not always a virtue in the world of unusual timepieces.


[Setvir] writes to us with details of his One LED Clock. It’s an Arduino Pro Micro with an RTC module and an LED. That’s all, time is communicated to the world through LED flashes. You might expect therefore that it would use Morse Code, but he’s come up with his own timing communication scheme which does have some merit. Long flashes cover a quarter of the clock face, while short flashes cover individual hours or five-minute segments. He goes into detail on the project page and we can see that once you are used to the scheme it has an elegance to it, but it certainly ticks the essential unreadable-to-the-uninitiated box for an esoteric clock.

We like it though for its simplicity and for the flashing scheme, which once explained is both efficient and easy to read. If you would like to have a go yourself he’s published his code, so go forth and cover the world with baffling single-LED timepieces!

We’ve featured a few minimalist LED clocks before, at least one with a minimal face, and another single-LED offering. But that one used a bi-colour LED, so [Setvir] takes the minimalism crown.

Cyclist’s LED Pixel Clock Has No Fat Around The Middle

If you like LED clocks and illuminated bicycle wheels, [Harald Coeleveld] has just the right weekend project for you. His RGB pixel LED clock is as simple as it is beautiful, and it can be built in no time: The minimalist and sporty design consist of not much more than a LED strip wrapped around a bicycle wheel rim.

[Harald] took 2 meters of addressable WS2812 LED strip (with 30 LEDs per meter, we assume), wrapped it around a 27″ bicycle rim padded with a foam strip, and obtained 60 equally spaced RGB LEDs on a ring, ideal for displaying time. Apparently, the rim-tape circumference of this particular 27″ bicycle wheel is close enough to 2 meters, so it lines up perfectly.

On the electronics side, the project employs an Arduino Nano and a DS3231 precision RTC module. For switching between two illumination modes for day and night, [Harald] also added a photoresistor. During the day, colored dots around the ring display the time: A red dot for the seconds, a blue one for the minutes, and a group of 3 green LEDs for the hours. At night, the entire ring shimmers with an effective red glow for easier readability.

The Arduino code for this build can be downloaded from the project page, enabling anyone to effortlessly replicate this design-hack in under an hour!

Simple Clock is Great Stepper Motor Project

You’d think that we’ve posted every possible clock here at Hackaday. It turns out that we haven’t. But we have seen enough that we’ve started to categorize clock builds in our minds. There are the accuracy clocks which strive to get every microsecond just right, the bizzaro clocks that aim for most unique mechanism, and then there are “hello world” clocks that make a great introduction to building stuff.

Today, we’re looking at a nice “hello world” clock. [electronics for everyone]’s build uses a stepper motor and a large labelled wheel that rotates relative to a fixed pointer. Roll the wheel, and the time changes. It looks tidy, it’s cyclical by design, and it’s a no-stress way to get your feet wet driving stepper motors. And it comes with a video, embedded below.

Continue reading “Simple Clock is Great Stepper Motor Project”

Walnut Guitar Back Yields Wood for Classy Word Clock

Word clocks are cool, but getting them to function correctly and look good is all about paying attention to the details. One look at this elegant walnut-veneered word clock shows what you can accomplish when you think a project through.

Most word clocks that use laser-cut characters like [grahamvinyl]’s effort suffer from the dreaded “stencil effect” – the font has bridges to support the islands in the middle of characters like “A” and “Q”. While that can be an aesthetic choice and work perfectly well, like in this word clock we featured a few months back, [grahamvinyl] was going for a different look. The clock’s book-matched walnut guitar back was covered in tape before being laser cut; the tape held the letters and islands in place. After painstakingly picking out the cutouts and tweaking the islands, he used clear epoxy resin to hold everything in place. The result is a fantastic Art Deco font and a clean, sleek-looking panel to sit on top of an MDF light box for the RGB LED strips.

The braided cloth cable adds a vintage look to the power cord, and [grahamvinyl] mentions some potential upgrades, like auto-dimming and color shifting. This is very much a work in progress, but even at this point we think it looks fabulous.

[via r/diy]

E Pluribus Unix, QR-Style

It’s been a long time since we’ve logged into a UNIX mainframe (other than our laptop) but one of our fond memories is the daily fortune: small, quirky, sometimes cryptic sayings that would pop up on the login screen if your system administrator had any sense of humor.

Apparently, we’re not alone. [Alastair] made his own fortune clock which gives you a new “fortune” every second instead of every login. There’s a catch, of course. It’s a QR clock — the fortune is encoded in a QR code instead of being displayed in human-readable form. You have to take a picture of the tiny OLED screen to know what it says. (Watch it sending him Shakespeare sonnets in the video below.)

You probably know QR codes are good for conveying URLs, but their use as general-purpose text containers is underappreciated in our book, so we’re glad to see this example. Now, we’ve seen QR clocks before (here, and here), and this version does have the disadvantage that you can actually tell what time it is. But we’re grateful for the trip down memory lane.

Continue reading “E Pluribus Unix, QR-Style”

Easy Bubble Watch Oozes Retro Charm

[Rafael] made a sweet little retro watch that’s a fantastic introduction to hardware DIY. If you’ve programmed an Arduino before, but you’ve never had a board made, and you are up for some SMD soldering, this might be for you. It’s got some small components, so ease off the coffee before soldering, but it’s nothing that you won’t be able to do. In the end, you’ll have something awesome.

Aesthetically, the centerpiece is the bubble display, which reminds us of the old HP calculator that our parents kept in the junk drawer, long after it had ceased to be relevant. It would return 3.9999999 for the square-root of 16, but we loved to play with it anyway. This watch will let you vicariously reclaim our childhood.

But that’s not all! It’s also an Arduino and RTC clock. Functions that are already implemented include clock, calendar, stopwatch, and “temperature”. (Temperature is from the AVR’s internal thermometer, which isn’t super-accurate and is probably just going to tell you how hot your wrist is anyway…) It’s got buttons, and tons of free flash space left over. It’s begging to be customized. You know what to do.

It’s not a smart watch, but it’s a great project. “The nostalgic retro bubble display is certain to flatter any hacker’s outfit.” Or something. OK, but we want one.

[via OSHpark’s Hackaday.io feed]