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Numitron tube tutorial

Nixies and VFDs are great displays, but when using them you’ve got to deal with some fairly high voltages, at least for the micro projects we see on Hack a Day. Luckily, there’s another ancient technology that can be driven at tiny voltages. [Kenneth] put up a great tutorial on Numitron tubes to show the Internet how to get these guys working.

Numitron tubes are like Nixies, but instead of the ten number-shaped filaments in each Nixie, Numitrons are old-school seven-segment displays. [Kenneth] picked up a few on ebay and the seller was kind enough to include a Russian data sheet. Each filament in his IV-9 Numitrons required about 20mA to light up, perfect for the constant current LED drivers [Kenneth] picked up

The test circuit consisted of an ATtiny2313 and an A6278 LED driver. The code on the ATtiny cycles the digits 0 through 9. This is sent through the LED driver and lights up the tiny filaments inside the tube. Check out the video after the break to see the Numitron in action

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A clock made out of some very weird tubes

If you’re like [Richard], you’ve got a few really rare components lying around. Maybe it’s a very weird micro or a really tiny CRT, but eventually you’ve got to build something with these parts. When [Richard] decided to put some ITS1A neon display tubes to use, he fell back to the old standby – a really awesome clock.

Unlike the lowly Nixie tube, the ITS1A tube is weird. It’s a neon seven-segment display that can be controlled directly from the pins of a microcontroller. It does this with the help of seven tiny thyratrons in each segment. Even though this tube has neon, the display isn’t the familiar neon orange-red. The tube emits a lovely green with the help of a phosphor coating.

With a single digit already incorporated into [Richard]‘s clock, he needed four indicators for the hours and minutes. After a failed experiment with a crazy 4-color, 16-pixel Melz ITM2-M display, he moved on to a simpler MTX90 thyratron indicator.

Using the same control scheme as his earlier numitron clock, Richard had a PCB made and wired everything up. The seven-segment tube indicates the value, and the indicator tubes indicates the position of the digit in the XX:XX standard. A very cool  build with parts you don’t see coming around often.

Nixie clock exhibits well fabricated metal bezel

[Matt Evans] achieves a total win with his Nixie clock. Not only does he have the benefit of the retro display hardware, but he really catches our eye with the enclosure he built for it.

The project had its genesis when he came across a set of the Nixie Tubes in a surplus store. This was back in 2007, and with parts in hand he built the high-voltage driver circuit and a control board. The thing kept time, but was housed in a temporary case that was a bit rough looking. There it sat, waiting to become the focus of his attention once again.

When it did finally come time to build a proper case [Matt] started with a small sheet of recycled copper. He made the cutouts and bends by hand. He mentions that it’s a little uneven; maybe, but we don’t think it detracts from the design. Some black screen (like would be used on a porch door) covers the openings, giving texture and contrast to the facade.

We love the look, and the ATmega48 with a clock crystal for the RTC functions should make this a reliable time source.

Using nixie tubes as robot eyes

[radmeck] on the ez-robot.com forums came up with a great use for Nixie tubes. Instead of using Nixies for clocks, or indicating values, he used them as robot eyes.

He used the arduNIX Arduino-powered Nixie tube driver to power the tubes. [radmeck] was very impressed with the arduNIX kit. The kit is able to drive eight Nixies or eighty neon bulbs, but there’s no word from [radmeck] on additional Nixies or neons in his build. The eventual goal of the project is to rebuild the Omnibot while adding more servos and motors. The EZ-B robot controller will be used to control the robot, something we’ve seen before.

[radmeck]‘s Omnibot looks a lot better after the retr0bright bath, and with Nixie eyes its even more adorable. While the Omnibot didn’t live up to the original promise of impressing your girlfriend, Nixie tube eyes will give you some blog cred.

Check out the video of the much-improved Omnibot after the break.

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Magic: The Gathering nixie life counter

Someone sent in a tip that pointed us to this Magic: The Gathering forum thread where a user named [DistortedDesigns] made a life counter for Magic: The Gathering out of Nixie tubes. While there’s not many details for this build, it’s just too cool to be forgotten in a single forum.

The project began by etching some plexiglas. There’s some earlier examples of [DistortedDesigns]‘ work that look very professional. The electronic are extremely simple – the 25 LEDs run off of 2 AA cells, and the nixies run off of 2 C cells. We were wondering when [DistortedDesigns] would drop the A-bomb, but it looks like this build doesn’t use a microcontroller.

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Warm Tube Clock, take 2

warm_nixie_v2

[Mure] wrote in to let us know he has put the finishing touches on the second iteration of his Warm Tube Nixie clock. We featured his original creation here last year, and while many things remain the same, he has still found a few things that he was able to improve on.

The first notable feature is the new real time clock. Instead of using a discrete crystal to keep time and a temperature sensor for compensation, he has opted to use a DS3231 RTC IC. It is far more accurate than the crystal, and it features a built-in temperature sensor as well. The alarm functionality has been simplified too, moving the controls into firmware rather than having to use a sliding switch to do so.

With the mainboard redesign, it would have been easy to leave behind the nixie “shields” he created for his first clock, but with a focus on interoperability, he chose to make this clock fully compatible with version one’s shields and vice versa.

While the changes aren’t groundbreaking, it’s nice to see a project like this undergo continued refinements. If you want to build a clone of this clock, [Mure] has made sure that all of the schematics and source code are available on his site.

Continue reading to see a brief video demo of the clock in action.

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Nixie tube conference badge

troopers11_badge

Maker [Jeffrey Gough] was recently asked to construct a set of badges for the TROOPERS11 IT security conference held in Heidelberg last month. The badges were to reflect the overall theme of this year’s conference – personal progression, education, and striving to become better IT security professionals. To do this, he designed a badge that tracked a conference attendee’s participation in various activities.

The badge sports a center-mounted nixie tube that is used to show the attendee’s score. It is worn around the neck using a Cat-5 cable that acts as a LANyard as well serves as a power switch for the badge. The badge can be plugged in to a special programmer used by conference organizers, which updates the attendee’s score after completing each activity.

[Jeffrey] made sure to add all sorts of extra goodies to the badge, including a capacitive touch button that displays a secret message via the nixie, as well as plenty of hole and SMT pads so that hackers could get their game on.

Overall, the reception of the badge was extremely positive. All of the conference attendees had lots of fun exploiting the badges as well as adding components such as LEDs and speakers.

Continue reading to check out a quick demonstration video [Jeffrey] put together, highlighting the badge’s features.

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