Very accurate clock can’t be read accurately

[Martijn] is showing off his new clock which he calls a Light Spectrum Clock. We like to look of it, using RGB LEDs in five squares that remind us of some of those LED coffee table builds. From left to right this shows the week, day, hour, minute, and second. Simple, right?

We had to smile a little bit when looking through his write up. He chose an Arduino nano as a controller, using a TLC5940 chip to drive the LEDs. But it is the inclusion of a DS1307 real-time clock that we find amusing. It will keep quite accurate time (not quite as well as the DS3232 but still respectable) but the fuzzy display technique makes telling the time accurately an impossibility. But like other color-based clocks, that’s part of the fun. The real reason for using an RTC chip is that they usually include battery-backed operation so that you can shut off the LEDs when you’re not around and the clock will continue to tick.

You can watch the seconds pass by as fading colors in the clip after the break.

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Chrono-tomic shield helps your Arduino keep perfect time

chronotomic-arduino-shield

[Josh] and his lab partner [Eric] needed a final project for their Embedded Systems Design class, and thought that designing an Arduino shield would be a cool idea. They noticed that there are plenty of ways to get an Arduino to keep time, though none that they knew of utilized WWVB (Atomic Time) signals directly.

The Chrono-tomic Arduino shield uses a C-MAX radio to demodulate the WWVB signal, demodulating it and passing it along to a PIC16F1824 microcontroller. The PIC decodes the data frame and verifies it is valid, sending the time to an MCP79410N real-time clock module.

We can hear the “Yo dawg I herd you like microcontrollers so I put a microcontroller on your microcontroller shield” jokes already, but the pair says that they offloaded the time processing to the PIC in order to let the Arduino focus on whatever tasks it has been delegated. The Arduino code merely needs to request the time from the RTC whenever it is required, rather than deal with the decoding itself.

Is it overkill? Perhaps – though we think it heavily depends on your application and configuration. We can certainly conjure up situations where it would be useful.

Bobuino: Arduino based on ATmega1284 + goodies

[Erik] wrote in letting us know that he just completed development of the Bobuino, a Arduino based on an ATmega1284. That chip is nice and beefy, most notably for having 16 KB of SRAM but it also boasts 4 KB of EEPROM, and 128 KB of program memory.

But the upgraded chip isn’t the only thing that it brings to the table. It’s easy to spot the on-board SD card slot in the image above. Also of note is the battery-backed DS1307 real time clock with a jumper that will route the square wave output to one of two pins on the microcontroller.

This design is compatible with standard Arduino shields thanks to the familiar pair of pin sockets, and can still be programmed via the USB socket. Since the AVR chip has more IO than normal there’s also pin headers to break out the PORTC pins, for a JTAG connector, and for an RS232 port.

Simple clock uses RTC chip and character display

[Giorgos Lazaridis] just finished building a simple clock on a breadboard. It uses a common real time clock chip, the DS1307. This is less expensive that its full-featured older brother, the DS3232. The difference between the two is that the 1307 requires an external 32.768 kHz crystal and it is not temperature compensated. This means it will not be quite as accurate over the long-haul (it may wander as much as one minute per month), but it still blows the accuracy of using a microcontroller as an RTC out of the water and includes a backup battery which will keep time when the rest of the circuit is switched off.

This design uses a PIC 16F1937 to display the time and date on a 16×2 character LCD screen. Six buttons are dedicated to incrementing one specific chunk of data (ie: one button changes the year, another the day, etc.). A seventh button can be held down when using the other six in order to decrement the setting. We’re always interested in how the button code is written. [Giorgos] did share his code, but he wrote it in assembly so it’s of little use to us as we tend to stick to C code.

See the walk through video after the break.

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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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Building your own real time clock

diy_rtc

Like many electronics hobbyists, [Pete] found that he had an overwhelming desire to build a clock for himself. He didn’t want to stick a discrete real time clock IC into a box and call it a day, so he opted to construct his own around a microcontroller instead.

After researching the specs on a few RTC ICs, he defined some accuracy requirements for his clock, and got to building. He started out using a 32,768 Hz watch crystal, but found that the accuracy was off by about 46 ppm after only 24 hours of use. That fell well beyond his self-imposed +/- 3 ppm tolerance goal, so he purchased an oscillator with about 500 times the resolution of his previous crystal.

After writing a handful of code to ensure that the clock remains stable, he calculated that his accuracy should be about 0.18 ppm – well within his acceptable tolerance range.

[Pete] says that this is just the first part of his clock construction, and that future revisions should include plenty of additional functionality, so keep an eye out for updates.

15-digit Nixie clock contains mostly non-useful information

[Jarek Lupinski] is at it again, this time building a clock using 15 Nixie tubes. Just look at the time…. wait, how do you read this now? It’s not seconds since the epoch, but an homage to a very expensive New York City art piece. [Jarek] took his inspiration from the Metronome art installation in Union Square.

We hadn’t heard of it before and were shocked to learn that this art was commissioned at $4.2 million. It belches steam and confuses passersby with its cryptic fifteen digits. It seems that the eight digits on the left mark the current time – two digits for hours, two for minutes, two for seconds, and the final digit for hundreths of a second. The seven remaining digits count down the time left in the day. So when you watch it, you see the significant digits of the display increasing, and the insignificant half decreasing.

The Nixie version rests snuggly on a 15″x4″ PCB. We’re sure it doesn’t number in the millions, but that couldn’t have been cheap to have manufactured. Each tube has its own driver chip, removing the need for multiplexing. An ATmega168 controls the clock (along with some shift registers to expand the I/O count), reading time from a DS1307 RTC chip. It looks fancy, but where’s the belching smoke on this version?