VFD Clock Only Speaks Romanian

There’s no shortage of clock projects, but [niq_ro] has his own take using a vacuum fluorescent display (VFD), and Arduino, and a pair of MAX6921 ICs. Those chips are made to drive a VFD, and the use of two of the ICs required a bit of work. The Arduino is not a great time keeper, so the clock also uses a DS3231 clock module and a humidity and temperature sensor.

The clock is in Romanian, although there are some options for different text. You can find the code on GitHub and can see the result in the video below.

VFDs are often used in places where a display is meant to be read outdoors. It uses cathodoluminescence to actually generate light. The process is similar to a CRT, but at lower voltages. The tubes have a phosphor-coated anode and the cathode bombards it with electrons, making the phosphor glow. VFDs are available in different colors.

VFDs are popular for clocks, ranging from very polished looking ones, to something similar to this one, but with an MSP430. If you are interested in low-level interfacing for VFDs, we’ve talked about that too.

9 thoughts on “VFD Clock Only Speaks Romanian

    1. vfd’s also have burn-in which gets ugly if you have static patterns staying for long periods of time.

      I made an espresso machine mod using an arduino and a 16×2 lcd display that was really fluorescent and not lcd, just using the same hitachi style interface.

      it had a clock mode in the upper right when not in ‘brew’ mode.

      over about 2 years time, the clock burned its pattern into the display since it was always on and the hh:mm pattern was always dimmer than the rest of the display.

      it was not cheap, either; newhaven has one that is pin compat with hd44780 and it was $30 or more, iirc. and fragile, too.

      but very bright and very ‘quick’ looking in how fast it changed display data.

      1. Some subway trains in Vienna have VFDs, the lower parts of letters like “g”, “f”, “p” are much brighter than the rest which is used more.

        And I had SAT-Receiver without power button. In Standby it wrote “Standby” on the display with reduced brightness (and reduced it’s power consumption from 25,5W to 25W) which also wore out this part of the display.

  1. What’s in Romanian? Do they use different units for something there? I see time in 24-hour format, degrees Celsius and what’s RH, Relative Humidity? I guess the dashes between numbers as opposed to colons is a bit different than I am used to. That isn’t much of a language barrier though.

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