NES: Nixie Entertainment System

nixieNES

[Bradley W. Lewis] is no stranger to Nixie clock builds, and he felt his latest commission was missing something. Instead of merely mounting the Nixie clock into a case resembling an NES console, he goes full tilt and makes it into an NES console emulator. After some work on the milling machine, a wooden box has room to squeeze in a few new components. [Bradley] originally planned to mount only an Arduino with an ArduNIX shield to handle the Nixie clock, but the emulator demands some space saving. Flipping the Arduino on its side freed up plenty of room and the shield still easily connects to the adjacent Nixie tube board.

A Raspberry Pi serves as the console emulator and was mounted close to the side of the case to allow access to its HDMI port. The other ports from both the Arduino and RasPi stick out of the back, including an extension to the Pi’s RCA video out and buttons to set both the hour and minutes of the clock. The two surplus NES buttons on the front of the case control power to the RasPi and provide a reset function for the Nixie clock.

If that isn’t enough Nixie to satisfy you, check out the WiFi Nixie counter.

Building a WiFi enabled Nixie counter

wifi-nixie-counter

[Kevin Ballard] built this Nixie counter on the company dime. Tubes like this are getting more and more difficult to find since they’re no longer being manufactured. But when the Bossman hands you a corporate credit card those kinds of concerns take a back seat to your parts-shopping impulses. Start to finished this WiFi enabled counter took six weeks to build.

Connecting the board to the internet was very easy thanks to the Electric Imp that drives it. The difficult part comes in building a driver board and sockets for the tubes. We don’t see a lot of detail on how he’s generating the high voltage. But you can get a good feel for the tube connectors from the picture. He’s using an adapter PCB from Kosbo which breaks the tube pins out to two rows of 0.1″ pitch pin headers. The acrylic base has a port for each made of pin sockets spaced by a thick chunk of acrylic. Wiring harnesses wrap around the back side of the base to mate with the driver hardware. It’s programmed to count some type of company metric (it was funded by the corporation after all). They must be fairly successful because those numbers are flying by in the demo video.

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Spare parts pulled together into a Nixie clock

We’d like to dig around in [Small Scale Research's] parts bin. Apparently there’s good stuff in there because he managed to build this Nixie tube clock using mostly leftovers.

The chip driving the device is an ATtiny1634. We weren’t familiar with it so here’s a datasheet (pdf) if you’re curios as well. The microcontroller communicates with an old GPS module in order to keep perfect time. There is an external antenna for it which connects through the hole next to the red switch seen above. The high voltage driver is a repurposed backlight inverter which is fed 12V power from an old laptop supply.

The album linked above shows the build quite well and even includes full schematics. There are some fireworks when he encountered an issue with a pretty large cap shorting to a resistor leg. If this isn’t enough juicy detail for you there are a few more nuggets shared in the Reddit comments.

Collection of Nixie bar graphs bump to the beat

This VU meter uses Nixie tubes as the display. There are a total of fourteen IN-13 bar graph tubes that map out the audio spectrum. The build uses purely hardware for the display; no microcontroller processing, or dedicated VU-meter chips were used.

Input begins with a dual Op-Amp along with a pair of potentiometers which allow the left and right channels to be balanced. Both channels are then each split into seven signals, which explains the layout of tubes seen above. Each signal is then fed through a voltage divider to envelope the output between 0V and 6V. There is also a low-pass filter to handle sudden volume spikes which don’t work well with the nixies. But as shown in the video after the break, all that work has paid off. Thr clip gives us a look at the green protoboards which host all of this filtering hardware. You’ll want to turn the volume down for the first couple of demonstrations which use a sweep to test the system.

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Nixie clock that doesn’t skimp on the number of tubes

[Nina Blum] figures that if you’re going to the trouble of driving Nixie tubes you might as well use a lot of them. The details about this clock, which were sent directly to our tips line, lists a total of thirteen tubes used. There are six Russian IN-8 tubes (large digits), four Z573M tubes (small digits), but the colon tubes and the sine wave tube part numbers were not specified.

An ATmega8 controls the segments via a set of transistors. To operate the display [Nina] included a user interface made from five buttons and a four line character LCD. There is a video showing off the menu system that includes a way to set the time, date, and toggle the various illuminated bits. We’re waiting for permission to post that clip on our YouTube channel as [Nina] only included a Rapidshare link to the movie. Right now you’ll find more images after the break and we’ll embed the video if we get to okay.

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Nixie Clock Without a PCB

Looking for an artistic way to build circuits? Don’t want to design a PCB? The Lethal Nixie Tube Clock is a free form circuit that gives you the time one digit at a time. It uses a IN-1 Nixie tube to display the digits. This is driven by ten MPSA42 high voltage transistors. A IRF520 N-FET, inductor, and a diode are used as a switching power supply that generates the high voltage needed to drive the Nixie tube. It’s probably not lethal, but there are exposed high voltages in the cube. You’d definitely regret touching it.

An ATMega8 is used to control the clock. It drives the various digits of the Nixie tube, and generates a PWM output to switch the high voltage supply. Unfortunately, the schematic has been lost. If you’re interested in the switching supply, it’s likely similar to the one explained here.

Check out a video of the clock after the break.

Via Dangerous Prototypes

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Nixie suduku and on-die LEDs

The best booths at Maker Faire draw you in with something unbelievably cool or ridiculously absurd, and bring out a state-of-the-art technology just as your curiosity for the main feature starts to wane. [John Sarik]‘s booth for a class he’s TAing at Columbia – Modern Display Science and Technology – is one of these booths.

The main feature of the booth is a suduku board filled with 81 Nixie tubes. As shown in the video below, you control the cursor (the decimal point of the Nixies) with a pair of pots. After moving the cursor to the desired location, there’s a keypad to change the number at any one of the 81 locations on a suduku puzzle.

[John]‘s presentation then continued to what he’s working on up at Columbia: he’s working on a project to put arrays of LEDs onto silicon, just like any other integrated circuit. He demoed a small LED display built in to a DIP-40 package with a glass (or maybe quartz) window. Yes, it’s a really tiny LED matrix display with a pixel pitch probably much smaller than a traditional LCD display.

Video of the suduku machine after the break, as well as a gallery of the LED matrix on a chip. The matrix was very hard to photograph, so if [John] would be so kind as to send a few more pics in, we’ll be happy to put them up. There’s also a proper video from [John]‘s YouTube showing off the Nixie Suduku puzzle solving itself with a recursive algorithm.

[Read more...]

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