NixieBot Films Your Tweets

[Robin Bussell]’s NixieBot is a mash up of new age electronics and retro vintage components and he’s got a bunch of hacks crammed in there. It’s a Nixie tube clock which displays tweets, takes pictures of the display when it encounters tweets with a #NixieBotShowMe hash tag, and then posts requested pictures back to twitter. If a word is eight characters, it takes a snapshot. If it’s a longer message, NixieBot takes a series of pictures of each word, converts it to an animated GIF, and then posts the tweet. In between, it displays random tweets every twenty seconds. You can see the camera setup in the image below and you should check out the @nixiebot twitter feed to see some of the action.

nixiebot_05For the display, he’s using eight big vintage Burroughs B7971 Nixie Tubes. These aren’t easy to source, and current prices hover around $100 each if you can find them. The 170V DC needed to run each tube comes from a set of six 12V to 170V converter boards specifically designed to drive these tubes. Each board can drive at least a couple of nixies, so [Robin]’s able to use just four boards for the eight tubes. Each nixie is driven by its own “B7971 SmartSocket“, a dedicated PIC16F690 micro-controller board custom designed for the purpose. A serial protocol makes it easy to daisy-chain the SmartSockets to build multi character displays.

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Bluetooth Nixie driver lets you go almost-wireless

[Bob Coggeshall] has a nice Nixie tube driver board coming down the pipes. It’s not quite ready yet but you can see by the image above, it offers something that isn’t always easy to find; control for B7971 tubes which can display the full spectrum of alpha-numeric characters. This board is not limited to just one type of tube and it can be chained together with other boards to create longer displays. But perhaps the best development is the addition of a Bluetooth module. [Bob] has incorporated a Roving Networks RN-41 Bluetooth module which takes care of all aspects of the wireless protocol. This way the display is not tethered to a computer, or limited to data stored on a chip. We can’t really say that it’s wireless though, as we’d assume a set of these big tubes would rip through batteries pretty quickly. Keep an eye on this project, it will be open source once the bugs are worked out and [Bob] will also sell fully assembled and tested boards for those who choose not to roll their own.

We wonder if it would be easy to pair this with your phone and use it to display incoming call information?