Build Your Own Radio Clock Transmitter

NIST

Deep in the Colorado foothills, there are two radio transmitters that control the time on millions of clocks all across North America. It’s WWVB, the NIST time signal radio station that sends the time from several atomic clocks over the airwaves to radio controlled clocks across the continent. You might think replicating a 70 kW, multi-million dollar radio transmitter to set your own clock might be out of reach, but with a single ATtiny45, just about everything is possible.

Even though WWVB has enough power to set clocks in LA, New York, and the far reaches of Canada, even a pitifully underpowered transmitter – such as a microcontroller with a long wire attached to a pin PWMing at 60kHz – will be more than enough to overpower the official signal and set a custom time on a WWVB-controlled clock. This signal must be modulated, of course, and the most common radio controlled clocks use an extremely simple amplitude modulation that can be easily replicated by changing the duty cycle of the carrier. After that, it’s a simple matter of encoding the time signal.

The end result of this build is an extremely small one-chip device that can change the time of any remote-controlled clock. We can guess this would be useful if your radio controlled clock isn’t receiving a signal for some reason, but the fact that April 1st is just a few days away gives us a much, much better idea.

Vintage Vertical Nixie Clock

verticalNixieClock

There’s no shortage of Nixie-related projects online, but this vertical wall clock is a solid build and looks pretty sleek. [andreas] actually sourced the wood from an old handrail, into which he drilled six holes for the tubes with 30mm bits, then treated it with some woodworm poison after noticing holes his drill wasn’t responsible for.

The schematic is what you’d expect for a Nixie clock, designed with 123D circuits. [andreas] provides both top and bottom layers in a high-res PDF if you’d prefer to etch your own boards at home rather than order a PCB from the man. He took the finished board and soldered all the components in place, using tape to prevent some short circuit possibilities and mounting the result onto a pair of black plastic rails. The entire assembly mounts to the wooden case and is rounded off with glued-on end caps and a back cover. As always, be aware of the danger presented by the high voltage requirements of Nixie Tubes, and don’t go licking the components.

FLUX 1440: A Highly Impractical but Awesome Clock

clock

One our tipsters just sent us this great project — it’s a unique style of clock that we haven’t seen before. It was completed as part of what we think was a post-graduate program by [Felix Vorreiter]. This is FLUX 1440 (translated).

It uses 1200 meters of marked rope that is fed into the clock and strung between various pulleys and gears. Every second, the rope is moved 1.3cm. Every 57 seconds, the time is readable across the strands of rope — but only for 3 seconds. After that everything goes “back into the river”, a metaphor for chaos.

The explanation behind it is in German, but we’ve tried to piece together a general statement about the meaning behind it. Of course, we’d love if one of our German readers could provide a better translation!

FLUX 1440 displays time as a spatial dimension and counts the length of a day using a long segmented rope. The length of each minute is felt physically, as the viewer must wait as the shapes change until the current time reveals itself from the chaos of the markings.

Stick around for an extremely well produced video demonstrating it — it’s also in German, but we think you’ll be able to piece together the meaning.

[Read more...]

Weather Clock Puts OLPC to Work

weather-clcok

A clock to tell the weather? [Andrew] has created a device to do that and more. Inspired by [Sean's] weather clock, [Andrew's]clock displays the current weather conditions, temperature, moon phase, and of course the time. The whole project started years ago with a broken keyboard. [Andrew] wanted to try to use the keyboard controller PCB as a bidirectional computer interface. Data to the computer would go in via the key matrix. Output data would be read via the status LEDs. Cheap simple microcontroller boards like the Arduino sidelined the project for a few years, but he never completely left it behind.

With an unused OLPC XO-1 in hand, [Andrew] pulled out his old keyboard controller and started hacking. His first task was getting meaningful data out of the keyboard LEDs. He coded up his own keyboard led control library in python. On the hardware side an op amp took on the roll of a comparator to ensure proper logic levels were present. [Andrew] then hooked two LEDs up as clock and data lines to standard 74 series shift registers (most likely 74HC/HCT595). He found that his data was completely garbled due to bounce. A second shift register buffering the clock cleaned things up. [Andrew] was left with a stable 40 bits per second serial link to his shift registers. With all this done, the next step was the clock itself. [Andrew] bought a RUSCH Wall clock from IKEA, and converted the clockwork to a gear reduction for a DC motor he pulled from an old answering machine. He could now move the hands at will, but had no way to determine their position. IR break beam sensors from old printers came to the rescue.

After connecting the motor drive, [Andrew] still had a number of outputs available. A few LEDs were in his parts box, so into the project they went. 12 LEDs around the outside of the clock to display the current time. 3 LEDs hide behind the weather icons as status indicators. [Andrew's] python software really ties this together. His OLPC grabs data from the internet and displays it on the clock. A web interface allows the user to perform manual updates on the clock and to set alarms. The alarms even incorporate speech output via eSpeak. We love the reuse and recycling of parts in this hack. The end result is a clock any hacker would be proud to display on their wall.

[Read more...]

A Clock That Plots Time

plotclock

[Johannes] just sent us a tip about his small plotter that plots out the current time.

[Johannes] small clock plotter uses a dry wipe pen to write out the time on a small piece of dry erase board. The design is Made of three small 9g servos, with one to lift the pen off the writing surface and the other two to control a pair of connected jointed arms for the x and y-axis.

The little robot painstakingly wipes away the previous time before scrawling the current time in its place (with minute accuracy).

[Johannes] had hackability in mind when creating this project, making sure to keep to standard parts and making the code and design files available. The hardware for the build can be laser cut or 3D printed. The Arduino sketch can be found on GitHub and the design files can be found on Thingiverse. There are more detailed build instructions on Nuremberg’s FabLab page (translated).  [Read more...]

A Reel To Reel Clock

And this is how the clock will tell time!

Word clocks – time pieces that spell out the current time with words – are awesome. They’re usually entirely electronic, illuminating LEDs to display the time. Not this one. It’s a mechanical masterpiece that shows the current time in words using motors and 35mm film leader.

The mechanics of this clock are fairly simple: text is transferred onto 35mm film leaders with water slide decals, which are then rolled onto film reels. These film reels are mounted on stepper motors attached to a frame with Meccano. There are four film strips, making this a surprisingly similar a word clock but using motors instead of LEDs.

Because this clock was originally built in 2008, the electronics are a bit… strange through the lens of a post-Arduino skill set. [David] is using a homebrew BASIC Stamp with eight Step Genie ICs and MOSFETs for each motor. Calibration of the clock is handled by an IR detector and a mark on each piece of film leader.

It’s an impressive example of mashing up spare and surplus parts to make something cool, but unfortunately we can’t find a video of this clock in action. If you manage to find one, put a link in the comments and we’ll add it below.

Single Digit Numitron Clock

numitronClock

The above may look like a Nixie tube, but it’s a Numitron: the Nixie’s lower-voltage friend, and part of [pinomelean's] single-digit Numitron clock. If you’re unfamiliar with Numitrons, we suggest you take a look at our post from a few years ago, which includes a helpful tutorial to catch you up to speed.

[pinomelean] built this little device to capture a steampunk-ish look on the cheap for a clock small enough to fit on a wrist. The build uses a PIC16F84A uC and a 4MHz crystal on a custom PCB. A small button on the side lets the wearer set the time. Similar to the Vibrating Timepiece from last month, the Numitron clock isn’t perfect, though it is more accurate: gaining only one minute every 3 days.

Check out the video after the break to see it being set and keeping track of the time. It may take a moment to understand how to read the clock, though. Each of the four LEDs indicates where the number in the Numitron tube belongs. The LEDs light in sequence from left to right, displaying the clock one digit at a time.

[Read more...]

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