How About A Nice Game Of Nixie Chess?

[Tony] sent in a Nixie tube chess set he’s been working on, and we’re just floored with the quality of this build. The chess pieces glow without any visible wires, the board is extremely elegant with touches of gilding and brass, and extremely well designed using (mostly) materials and components contemporary to the old Russian Nixie tubes.

Instead of numeric Nixies, [Tony] chose IN-7 and IN-7A tubes originally made to display scientific symbols such as A, V, and ~. To power the these tubes, [Tony] used 64 air-core transformers underneath each square on the chess board, allowing these Nixie tubes to be powered just like an induction charger.

Even though his blog posts are a little thin on details, we’ve got to hand it to [Tony] for an amazing build. He says there will be a kit available that includes a gigantic PCB, but we wouldn’t hazard a guess as to how much that will cost.

You can check out a pair of videos of the Nixie chess set in action after the break.



12 thoughts on “How About A Nice Game Of Nixie Chess?

  1. I haven’t personally used nixie tubes, but in my experience with various other tubes the amount of heat tubes can generate is quite hot. Would prolonged games cause these little guys to be uncomfortable/stupid to touch?

    1. Nixie tubes don’t use heaters, they use cathodes that are shaped in a letter or number and is filled with a mixture of neon and argon (and a few others i think), In person they have a bright orange glow but also with a very faint blue glow from the argon.

  2. Nixie tubes don’t generate very much if any heat. They’re cold-cathode display tubes for a reason ;)

    Is he using inductance to power the tubes? That’s an awesome build.

  3. Hm…. Want! It looks really nice.

    The kit will not be cheap though – 15×15″ pcb in small quantities is like $40, 32 pcs of nixes is about $100 add other stuff for $60 for a parts cost of $200 plus some profit margin and you’re up to $300 plus DHL shipping of 4 kilos that most likely will add another $50-100 internationally.

  4. The target site seems to be hack-a-day’d so I can’t post comments there. Unfortunate. He has the board orientation incorrect — the lower right square, from the perspective of either player, is supposed to be white, not black. This does, however, give an interesting opportunity for an integrated chess clock — when you place your piece it could automatically hit the clock for you.

    1. Although chess has become rather standardized in modern times, the board was originally ruled out with simple lines and no fill. Then again, the queen was an adviser and the King wasn’t a gimp.

      Amazing display though, it’s purdy.

  5. Now all you need is that guy that is making his own nixie tubes to design custom electrodes for pawns, bishops, rooks, etc. put them in glass… Take it further and use different gasses for black/white, although that is a hard one. Nearly all nixies are orange for a good reason, orange glows by far the brightest.

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