ESP-Powered Nixie Clock Knows the Time

We see more than our fair share of nixie clocks here at Hackaday, and it’s nice to encounter one that packs some clever features. [VGC] designed his nixie tube clock to use minimal energy to operate: it needs only 5V via USB to work, and draws a mere 200 mA. Nixies require Soviet-approved 180v to trigger, so [VGC] used dynamic indication and a step-up voltage converter to run them, with a 74141 nixie decoder doing the heavy lifting.

The brains of the project is an ESP8266, which connects to his house’s WiFi automatically. The clock simply dials into an NTP server and sets its own time, so no RTC is needed. It also can communicate with the cloud via Telegram, allowing the clock to send alerts to [VGC]’s devices. The ESP’s firmware may likewise be updated over WiFi. The 3D-printed case and flashing second indicators are nice touches on top of the clock functionality.

As we said, everything from wrist watches to dashboard tachometers uses nixies for displays — we love those old-skool tubes!

7 thoughts on “ESP-Powered Nixie Clock Knows the Time

  1. Looks great and I like that there’s only one driver for the nixes.
    Went to read up on it but there’s next to nothing in the project log.
    Would have liked to hear why certain design choices were made.
    Such as the whys and wherefores of using a home fabbed pcb for this and deciding how much extra solder on top of the traces was enough for the high voltage side. Also is that chemical tinning on the traces? Is that good/bad? Tried it recently myself and it was a pig to solder to.

    1. Extra solder is probably a bad thing for that, making it more likely to spark over. Extra solder you might use for high current, but this is not high current at all. He may have done that just to prevent corroding the copper over time.

      Another interesting thing is that his boost converter doesn’t have any feedback.

  2. Multiplexing Nixies is frowned upon in certain circles.
    Presumably it shortens their lifetime unless they’re really made for multiplexing.
    Reason enough in some forums to get you the torches and pitchforks treatment.

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