Larson scanner using 7400 series logic hardware

[RandomTask] is sharing a Larson scanner he built a few decades ago. These days you can whip one of these up using an Arduino in under an hour. He mentions this, but we agree that for nostalgic purposes there’s nothing like implementing the scanning LED effect using hardware.

Often called a Cylon Eye (after the television show Battlestar Gallactica) or referred to as the lights on the front of Kitt (the car from Knight Rider), the effect doesn’t just involve switching LEDs on and off in the proper order. A true Larson Scanner fades the LEDs as the bright point moves away from them, resulting in a tail that dims over time.

This implementation uses a 555 timer as the clock signal, allowing for speed control through a potentiometer. A counter chip, J-K flipflop, and line decoder all work with each other to address the movement of the brightest light. The fading effect is managed via a capacitor and resistor for each LED. The video after the break shows the pleasing result of this setup.

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FlipFlop clock uses mains frequency to keep time


One afternoon, [Sam] was a bit bored and decided he would build a clock. Not wanting to spend any money on the project, he set off to construct his clock using only the components he had on hand – this meant no micro controllers would be used whatsoever.

Built on a set of four breadboards, his clock sports a pretty short parts list. It uses just over a dozen flipflops, a few NAND chips, a 555 timer, and a small handful of other components. What you won’t find on the bill of materials however, is any sort of crystal or real-time clock. Instead of using a separate chip for keeping time, he opted to use the 60hz mains frequency as the basis for his time keeping.

The mains sine wave is passed through a series of frequency dividers to reach a 1/60hz signal, which is used to trigger the clock counters he constructed. The time is displayed on a 4-digit seven segment display, using a pair of multiplexers clocked by a 555 timer.

The clock seems to work nicely, though you have to be pretty well-versed in how the clock was built to set the time. The only means of doing so is to probe into the clock of the digit you are setting while pressing the lone pushbutton mounted on the breadboard.

While we are pretty sure no one will ever mess with his clock’s time, we have to wonder if it blinks on and off like our old VCR when the power goes out.