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. 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.

VFD clock (ends the world)

We honestly thought [Jason's] VFD clock was some form of new terrorist attack when we came across the RSS. Thank goodness our relations with Russia aren’t as MAD as they used to be.

The main components are an IV-18 VFD with a MAX6921 driver, which to an untrained ear do sound surprisingly threatening. However an Arduino settles our hearts down and assures us this only has as much potential as blinking a VFD. While the main code, schematics, and CAD aren’t available (open source coming to a theater near you soon) at the moment – you can check out [Jason's] inspiration, the Ice Tube Clock, which runs many of the same components.

Enjoy a video of it in action after the break. We love the ‘countdown’ feature the most.

[via Make] [Read more...]

Need to source Nixie tubes?

Nixie tubes make for fun projects but the fun can’t start until you get your hands on the hardware. Well, [Dieter's] got you covered with his one-stop repository on Nixie tubes and where to get them. We know that Woz’s watch isn’t currently available because of a lack of tiny tubes an obsolete accelerometer. Ladyada’s Ice Tube Clock depends on a rare 8-digit VFD tube. But you can get around parts obsolescence by adapting these designs for an available replacement. So when you take on the Dekatron Timer or a Bottled Nixie Clock you’ll know where to turn for the goods.

Update: Our mistake about Woz’s watch.  It wasn’t a tube shortage that put it out of production.

[Thanks Aaron]

Learn from the Ice Tube Clock


Looks like they’re at it again over at Adafruit. This time they’ve produced a clock that looks more like it should be attached to a munition rather than cruising bedside. But, geek-cred aside, there’s a lot to be learned from their design. Like we’ve grown to expect, they’ve put together some good documentation on their choice of components.

Start off by taking a peek at their 5v power regulator. There is an extra diode on the output side that prevents reverse current from the 3v backup battery. The AVR ATmega168 that controls the clock is used to detect loss of power and quickly shift to the battery backup. They’ve also used the  microcontroller as a boost converter for the high voltage VFD, a nice trick we’ve seen before.

[Thanks pt]