Unusual 72-Bulb Display Mechanism Found in Vintage Clock

It’s hard to beat a vintage clock for something that you can hack, and that your significant other might actually let you display in your home. It’s practical and it’s art all at the same time! But, finding that perfect vintage clock for restoration can be a bit tricky. A crowd favorite is to choose something with intricate mechanisms and gears — the motion of a mechanical display is just so fascinating.


[Gavin] managed to find a clock that is every bit as interesting without any moving parts. The clock uses a unique system of bulbs and screen masks to project each digit of the time onto glass, which creates a pretty cool look you’re not likely to see on other devices. As cheap as LCD and 7-segment displays are these days, it’s hard to imagine a time when an intricate solution like this — using 72 light bulbs — was considered practical.

Of course, what isn’t practical is replacing 72 incandescent bulbs, just to have them start the process of burning out all over again. [Gavin’s] solution to this problem was to replace the incandescent bulbs with LEDs. After getting the color temperature right (to replicate the vintage warm glow), he was able to use a jig system to get the LEDs positioned correctly to project the digits properly.

This certainly isn’t the first time we’ve seen a unique clock design, but there is something intriguing about seeing a design like this that never quite caught on. It’s a little bit of technological history that even your significant other will think is cool.

Vintage Stereo Reborn With All The Bells And Whistles

We always like seeing projects that salvage a classic piece of technology, and this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s a vintage kiosk- or console-style stereo, repurposed with every useful feature imaginable, but still made to look original. Until you open the lid, that is.

[Julian] has been hard at work on rebuilding this 1957 RCA stereo, and since he’s no stranger to these types of rebuilds, the results are pretty impressive. Underneath the hood is a 22″ touchscreen running Windows 7 and a Lepai amplifier. The controls for the stereo were placed towards the back, along with USB ports and an RJ45 connector for the computer.

The speakers in the stereo also needed to be replaced. For this, [Julian] used a set of Dayton speakers that worked well enough for this application. After mounting the speakers and all the other hardware in the unit, [Julian] noted that while it isn’t an audiophile’s dream stereo, it was nice to have all of these parts integrated together into something that looks nice. We’d have to agree!

There are a lot of rejuvenated antique stereos around too, like this Bluetooth-enabled tube amp radio, or this Soviet-era handheld, or even this slightly more modern stereo. There’s just something classy about having a vintage-looking thing spruced up with modern technology!

Hackaday Prize Entry: A Pic32 Game Console

The official theme of the 2015 Hackaday Prize is to build something that matters. Solving the challenges facing the world is hard, and retro video games, despite what you read on Hackaday, do not matter.

That doesn’t mean there’s not space for the weird, esoteric builds out there; we have a best product prize that will dump $100k, a six month residency in the Hackaday Design Lab, and contacts with a lot of engineers with expertise in manufacturing. [Alex]’s extremely ow cost game console on a Pic32 is exactly what this prize category is looking for.

[Alex]’s project – XORYA – is based on the Pic32MX170F256, a chip that runs up to 50MHz, has 256kB of flash, and a full 64k of RAM. This is far beyond what the guys at Atari imagined back in the 70s, allowing the XORYA to have some amazing graphics.

Right now most of the build is dedicated to fleshing out the video system, and [Alex] has a great demo: rendering the Mandelbrot set in real time in 16 colors on an NTSC display with a resolution of 160×100. That’s a single-chip game console that’s right up there with the Uzebox, and a great example of the potential of the best product category for this year’s Hackaday Prize.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

[Tymkrs] Tombstone Guitar Amplifier


[Atdiy and Whisker], the team behind [The Tymkrs] YouTube channel, are at it again with a tombstone guitar amp project.(YouTube playlist link) Their amp began life as a Philco Tombstone radio which had seen better days. By the time [Tymkrs] got their hands on it, it was just a shell of its former self, as someone had already stripped all the electronics.

The amplifier itself is a disused Leslie tube amp [Tymkrs] had on hand. An LM386 serves as the pre-amp, making this a hybrid solid and vacuum state machine.

The tombstone speaker is especially interesting. [Tymkrs] went with an electrodynamic field coil speaker. Field coil speakers have no magnets, instead using a high voltage (approx 90V DC) coil to create a magnetic field for the voice coil to push against. This sort of speaker was commonplace in the 1930’s, as large magnets couldn’t be made lightweight enough to be used in a speaker. As magnet technology improved, permanent magnets became a staple in speakers.

[Tymkrs] paid special attention to the finish of the amplifier. They brought the tired old radio back to a high shine, then added a Metropolis inspired overlay from aged copper-clad board. The result is an amp that looks great and sounds great!

Continue reading “[Tymkrs] Tombstone Guitar Amplifier”

Hackaday Links: May 4, 2014


We’ve seen a few builds from the Flite Test guys before, like a literal flying toaster, airsoft guns mounted to planes, and giving an electric plane an afterburner (that actually produced a little extra thrust). Now the Flite Test crew is gearing up for the Flite Fest, an all things remote-controlled flight convention in Malvern, Ohio during the last weekend in July. Seems like a pretty cool way to spend spend a weekend.

Unless you get one of those fancy resistor kits where every value has its own compartment in a case or plastic baggie, you’ll soon rue the day your loose resistors become disorganized. [Kirll] has an interesting solution to hundreds of loose resistors: packaging tape. If you want a resistor, just grab a pair of scissors.

Okay, these Adafruit “totally not Muppets™” are awesome. The latest video in the Circuit Playground series is titled, “C is for Capacitor“. There’s also “B is for Battery“, because when life gives you lemons, light up an LED. Here’s the coloring book.

A few years ago, a couple of people at the LA Hackerspace Crashspace put together an animated flipbook device – something between a zoetrope and the numbers in those old electromechanical clocks – and launched a kickstarter. Now they’re putting on a show, presented by Giant Robot, featuring the animated art of dozens of artists.

Vintage electronics? Yes. Vintage Soviet electronics? Here’s 140 pages of pictures, mostly of old measurement devices.


Overhauling an IC Programmer

Willem IC Programmer

[NeXT] needed an EPROM programmer to work with chips from vintage computers. Starting with a low cost programmer, he built this custom IC programmer to handle all of his programming needs.

The device is based on the Willem 5.0e programmer. [NeXT] was not satisfied with the device, noting that it had to be carefully isolated from metal surfaces during use and required setting many annoying jumpers.

To solve these problems, he started off by dismantling the programmer. The IC sockets were moved to a daughter board, which could be mounted cleanly into the metal enclosure. Replacing the jumpers was a bit more complicated, a combination of toggle and rotary switches were chosen to make changing settings easier.

Soldering the boards together looks like it was not an easy task, with 200 solder joints needed to connect the sockets and switches. After debugging some shorts and dead connections, [NeXT] managed to finish the 1.5 year project right before his Christmas deadline.

[Fran]’s LEDs, Nixies, and VFDs.


With a love of blinky and glowey things, [Fran] has collected a lot of electronic display devices over the years. Now she’s doing a few teardowns and tutorials on some of her (and our) favorite parts: LEDs and VFD and Nixie tubes

Perhaps it’s unsurprising that someone with hardware from a Saturn V flight computer also has a whole lot of vintage components, but we’re just surprised at how complete [Fran]’s collection is. She has one of the very first commercial LEDs ever made. It’s a very tiny red LED made by Monsanto (yes, that company) packaged in a very odd lead-and-cup package.

Also in her LED collection is a strange Western Electric part that’s green, but not the green you expect from an LED. This LED is more of an emerald color – not this color, but more like the green you get with a CMYK process. It would be really cool to see one of these put in a package with red, green, and blue LED, and could have some interesting applications considering the color space of an RGB LED.

Apart from her LEDs, [Fran] also has a huge collection of VFD and Nixie tubes. Despite the beliefs of eBay sellers, these two technologies are not the same: VFDs are true vacuum tubes with a phosphorescent coating and work something like a CRT turned inside out. Nixies, on the other hand, are filled with a gas (usually neon) that turns to plasma when current flows through one of the digits. [Fran] has a ton of VFDs and Nixies – mostly military surplus – and sent a few over to [Dave Jones] for him to fool around with.

It’s all very cool stuff and a great lead-in to what we hear [Fran] will be looking at next: electroluminescent displays found in the Apollo Guidance Computer.

Videos below.

Continue reading “[Fran]’s LEDs, Nixies, and VFDs.”