Putting Twitter in a VFD clock

Not content with only knowing the time, [trandi] decided his Vacuum Fluorescent Display clock would be much better if it displayed the weather and a Twitter feed.

[trandi] received a Lady Ada Ice Tube clock last month. The kit went together almost too easily. Now he had to, “make it connect to other ‘stuff’ and display some custom messages.” After playing with the firmware to display a Hello World, [trandi] mucked around with the GPS mod and figured out how to add scrolling text over a serial connection.

A serial connection to an Internet-connected computer is all well and good, but [trandi] really wanted a stand-alone solution. A tiny WiFi to RS-232 board was sourced and the work of getting a clock on the internet began in earnest. After a weekend was wasted trying to debug the HTTP mode of the WiFi board, [trandi] gave up and used TCP mode with manually constructed HTTP headers.

The clock gets the current weather and a Twitter feed. To one-up to the Ice Cube GPS mod, the clock now sets its own time from the Internet. Check out the video of [trandi] showing off his Internet clock and fine collection of single malts after the break.

Continue reading “Putting Twitter in a VFD clock”

VFD Hacking


[Mostafa] was a bit bored and had a broken DVD player sitting around, so he decided to take it apart to see what made the machine’s LCD panel tick. Once he popped it open, he discovered it wasn’t an LCD panel at all, it was a VFD.

The seven segment display looked to be controlled by an ET16312n VFD driver, so he dug around online and found a datasheet for the chip. After looking at the documentation he was pretty confident he could get things working without too much trouble. He started tracing the board for the STB, CLK, Din, and Dout leads he needed to set up serial communications with the panel and was on his way in no time.

He hooked the panel up to the parallel port on his computer, and got busy hammering out some C code to write text to the display. Right now, the code lets you scroll text across the display, which is about as far as [Mostafa] cares to take it. It was done mostly as a proof of concept exercise, but since this VFD is compliant with the same NEC programming standard that most VFDs use, his code can likely be reused to drive any similar display with very little tweaking.

How a HP VFD Module was Reverse Engineered

We all love getting a good deal on sweet parts, but not all of them are documented. Some of us have trained our eyes and brains to spot “timesinks”, having been burned before. The rest sit down with whatever pile of stuff they have on hand, and figure out how to talk to that HP Media Center VFD.

[Jayeson] found some good deals on some Vacuum Fluorescent Displays from a HP Media Center computer as “new”, from some (unmentioned) shady dealers. Once receiving his B stock displays he needed to figure out a way to make them work.

Fun and excitement includes: figuring out the pins, first attempts of communication, getting the data sheet for a house brand chip… that still has the Atmel stamp on it, sniffing traffic with a logic analyzer, and deciphering that data. All that while being a pretty interesting read, good showing of willpower, and resulting in a couple Arduino Libraries as a bonus.

A VFD clock that tells the time, then tells you to **** off


Clocks are relatively simple devices – they tell time, and most often sport a handful of other utilitarian features like alarms and radios. Rarely though, do you see a clock that will wake you up in the morning and also curse at you shortly thereafter. [Matt Evans] clearly thought that clocks need to pack a little more attitude, so he built his girlfriend a clock that not only tells time, but spouts off nasty phrases as well. What a lucky gal!

The clock was constructed using IV-17 VFD tubes, each bearing 16 light-able segments. It seemed wasteful to simply use the tubes to tell time, so [Matt] got busy adding other features to the clock. It has an alarm, a calendar that is always stuck on his girlfriend’s birthday, and an ambient light sensor to dim the tubes at night. It also sports a variable rudeness setting, allowing for mild insults when family members are present, and extremely foul language for when your frat brothers swing by.

He has plenty of pictures on his site, but we’re betting people will want to see schematics and some source code. After all, Mother’s Day is but a few months away!

Wireless Arduino message board


[uhclem] was looking for a novel yet easy way to remind his kids to do their chores, and instead of using a series of post-it notes, he constructed a nice wireless Arduino-powered message board.  The message board is powered by an Arduino Pro, and communicates with his computer via a pair of series 1 Xbee radios which relay a series of canned messages to an attached VFD.  He installed all of the components in an old cigar box, and mounted it on the wall, making for a nice overall presentation.

Programming of the messages does not require any special software as the user interface is handled by the Arduino and accessed via a standard terminal session. [uhclem] mentions that the his code consumes nearly all of the device’s RAM when running, so he keeps a handful of canned messages stored in the Arduino’s flash memory, recalling them when needed.  The optional EEPROM is used to allow for streaming messages to the device as well.

VFD as a sound amplifier

[Alessandro Lambardi] had some vacuum flourescent displays that he pulled from junked VCRs. His latest project is an experiment to use one of the VFDs as a headphone amplifier (Wayback Machine Cache). This means he’s trying to use them as vacuum triode amplifiers, aka vacuum tubes. He did get it to work but as he suspected, the output is fairly low power. It may be possible to use this setup as a preamp and build an actual tube amp to use along with it.

Update: Thanks to [Fallen] for mentioning that we’ve covered this concept in the past.

[Thanks Muris]

Tube clock database

[Brian] wrote in to show us a site he’s been working on for a while. He’s been building a tube clock database. We didn’t realize there was actually a big enough draw for such a site, but we have to admit that we spent more than a few minutes browsing through the different clocks. There isn’t a ton of data for each clock, but there are links to individual project pages wherever available. There is also a growing amount of information on the different components themselves, so submit any data you have that he’s missing to help flesh it out.

The video above wasn’t chosen for any reason other than it is quite stylish.