Darth Vader, In A Nixie Tube

This may be a controversial statement, but Nixie tubes have become a little passé in our community. Along comes another clock project, and oh look! It’s got Nixie tubes instead of 7-segment displays or an LCD. There was a time when this rediscovered archaic component was cool, but face it folks, it’s been done to death. Or has it?

vadar-nixie-tube-unlitSo given a disaffection with the ubiquity of Nixies you might think that no Nixie project could rekindle that excitement. That might have been true, until the videos below the break came our way. [Tobias Bartusch] has made his own Nixie tube, and instead of numerals it contains a 3D model of [Darth Vader], complete with moving light saber. Suddenly the world of Nixies is interesting again.

The first video below the break shows us the tube in action. We see [Vader] from all angles, and his light saber. Below that is the second video which is a detailed story of the build. Be warned though, this is one that’s rather long.

The model is made by carefully shaping and spot welding Kanthal wire into the sculpture, a process during which (as [Tobias] says) you need to think like neon plasma. It is then encased in a cage-like structure which forms its other electrode. He takes us through the process of creating the glass envelope, in which the wire assembly is placed. The result is a slightly wireframe but very recognisable [Vader], and a unique tube.

This is the first Nixie [Vader] we’ve seen, but not the first home made Nixie. In fact, we’ve had two.

Thanks [Itay Ramot] for the tip.

48 thoughts on “Darth Vader, In A Nixie Tube

    1. Why? They are quite outdated – not everyone loves them. For example I prefer more modern displays for numbers. I don’t like the variable depth effect.
      But I would not call the Darth Vader sculpture a Nixie anyway. It is no numerical indicator display. It is a special neon glow lamp, a piece of art by itself.

      1. Most old test equipment that used Nixies was crap by today’s standards, including the ca. 1975 industrial scale that I turned into my own Nixie clock. Which we ripped to pieces in the 1980’s to make a tester for BCD outputs, because the ca. 1975 scale was such crap, and then eventually that tester was also highly obsolete, so Nixie Clock..

    1. We all lose when careless usage corrupts the precise meanings of words. Lately, “literally” has become almost useless. For something that operates on the same principle but is not actually a Nixie, how about “Nixie-like” or “Nixie-esque”?

        1. @Artenz
          To expand: this sort of shift happens literally all the time. People notice the ones that happen after their formative years or outside of their social circle. They tend not to notice the ones they help cause and move along.

          1. Slamming language breaks phobias! Cast a simile like a metaphor. Morons celebrate awful holidays. Glass barns deprecate myths.

            Wow you’re right. Shifting language meanings makes everyone communicate much better. And now that Nixie means Neon art form, we’ll all understand immediately what a computer with a nixie front panel means, right?

    2. Nixie has been genericised. You lost this game YEARS ago. Get over it.

      Nothing annoys me more than this degree of nitpicking at terminology, when a clearly AWESOME THING is presented before us. I for one will EMBRACE the dark side and appriciate this Darth Vader Niiiiiiiixie! MWHAHAHAHA! :P

      1. Genericized means that you can call any brand of gas discharge tube utilizing shaped cathodes to display symbols a “Nixie”. If somebody asks you for a kleenex, do you hand them a sheet of cardboard?

        1. I’ll hand them puffs, toilet paper, restraunt napkins… It all works. It’s a genericized term. Just because you are in denial, doesn’t make it less true. People have already genericized the term Nixie to mean exactly what you said… ANY gas filled cold cathode tube with ANY shaped shaped cathodes to display ANY symbols.

    3. I agree, it’s not a Nixie tube, in the purest sense of the word. Sometimes we have to take a view though, and go with what the person making the device we’re featuring says about it. It is after all theirs to name.

      1. If you look closely you’ll see Vader’s fingers doing the counting.

        Sarcasm aside, this looks nice. Would be more appropriate if they did this with Obi Wan’s ghost instead

      2. Who says this is a _decimal_ nixie? Clearly this is a nixie tube for the trinary computer recently featured in a n article. It counts to three (represented by center saber, right waggle, and left waggle)… clearly.

  1. Thats one fancy nixie! Props to his skillset and bonus points for the ‘moving’ sword

    I would’ve prolly put in a little less gas (if thats how that works) so its less of an actual lamp and more of an piece of art that isnt blinding to look at, but yea, overall, wow.

    Oh and yeah, please kill that twitter integration, apart from the broken layout its the last thing we need in HaD comments.

  2. Nixie or Neon, who cares (the name Nixie is used for every glowing tube nowadays), but regarding the project…this is art is it’s finest form. Glass… hot flames… high voltages… perfectly bend wires and on top of it all, it glows in the dark. You’ve got to love it, thanks for posting.

      1. Not a million times, not even ten times. I would say that esthetically, they’re about even. And edge-lit had an “edge” in that you could custom-engrave any symbols you needed. The advantage of the Nixie which allowed it to replace edge-lit displays overnight was cost. A digit of NLS’s edge-lit display took two milled and drilled aluminum blocks, ten pieces of engraved acrylic, and ten GE 328 bulbs. A Nixie could be made using existing electron tube automation, and to use it in a design required only the relatively-cheap tube and a socket.

        BOTH of these became obsolete because nobody liked the non-coplanar digits. We tolerated the ugly 7-segment LED, EL, vacuum-fluorescent, and gas discharge displays because at least those were coplanar.

        There was a fiber-optic display that was available in the same era that was truly beautiful – it had the ends of optical fibers embedded in black plastic, with all of the fibers for each numeral (NOT 7-segment, not 5×7 matrix, but properly-shaped numerals) bundled together in front of a lamp at the rear of the block of plastic. This used grain-of-wheat bulbs that were individually replaceable, which of course today would be replaced by 3-color LEDs. They were the best of both worlds, having well-formed symbols on a high-contrast background displayed in a single plane. Very expensive, though, and I don’t remember ever seeing one in a finished product. Can’t even find it on Google. Hm. Maybe I’m making this up – if Google can’t find it, it never happened.

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