[Spi Waterwing] wrote in to make sure that we were aware of Logisim, a Java-based open source digital logic simulator. We’ve used Atanua quite a bit in the past but hadn’t heard of this program. It seems to have a pretty big educational following and right off the bat it’s got a feature we’ve always wanted, the ability to build your own ‘black box’ logic devices. That is to say you can build your own circuit out of logic gates and then package it into a part to be plopped into your next design. What it doesn’t have is the series logic chips that we’re used to with Atanua, but you can build your own with the black box feature if you really need that kind of functionality.
So grab a copy and try building that binary calculator project from last month.
What you see above is a master clock. It is the center of a system that can run an unlimited number of slave clocks, keeping them on-time thanks to its ability to synchronize with an atomic clock. [Brett Oliver] put together the project back in 2005 using digital logic chips, and no programmable microcontrollers. This includes everything from the binary decoders that drive the 7-segment displays, to the radio transceiver board that gathers the atomic clock data, to the various dividers that output 1 second, 2 second, 30 second, 1 minute, 1 hour, and 24 hour signal pulses. It’s a well document and fascinating read if you’re interested in digital logic clocks.
Don’t feel like shelling out $5 for a fancy factory made calculator that won’t even do binary math? [Jeff] decided to prove his mastery of gates and his disdain for base 10 by building a binary calculator using XOR, AND, and OR chips. Calculations can be input in two ways: through digital logic headers or by three banks of DIP switches used to enter the operator and the two operands. Although limited to addition and subtraction, this is a great way to make sure you really understand digital logic. Take a look at the rough design schematics in his album. The design is modular so if you have one of each gate and a few LEDs sitting around you can give this a whirl.
We love old display technology, like Nixie tubes, but they’re often difficult to work with because they require higher voltages than digital logic. Vacuum florescent displays (VFD) fall into this category. While not necessarily “old”, they are becoming far less common than LCDs. The main benefit of a VFD is that it actually produces light directly; it doesn’t require a backlight. You’ll find these displays on various players and appliances: CD, DVD, VCR, microwaves, stoves, car headunits, and others.
[Sprite_tm] had written off some VFDs, but recently revisited them with renewed interest. He started by testing what sort of voltage would be required to drive the display. It took 3V for the filament plus 15V to drive the grids. There are VFD controller chips available, but he wanted to get this working with what he had on hand. He had experience with older 40xx series logic, which can be powered by much higher voltages than 5V 74xx. His final schematic has three 4094 serial to parallel chips with an ATtiny2313 controller. A 5V power supply is dropped to 3V with diodes to drive the filament while a boost converter brings it up to 15V for the 4094s that switch the segments. While the code is specific to this display, it would be a great place to start your own project.