Us: “I’ll take Retro style displays we absolutely have to have for $200, Alex.”
Trebek: “This nixie tube is unlike any conventional tube you’ve seen before, handbuilt and NOT numbers or letters.”
Us: “What is FriendlyWire’s new logo tube?”
Trebek: “Heck yeah.”
Nixie tubes are the vacuum technology that manages to do far less than a graphic LCD while looking about a million times cooler. Generally speaking, these tubes are no longer manufactured, and the old stock you can get your hands on usually contain a set of filaments shaped like numbers. But @FriendlyWire’s tweet of this Nixie tube by [Dalibor Farny] breaks both of those rules. This handmade tube isn’t just a numerical display or a colon display (the punctuation mark, get your head out of the gutter). It’s a custom logo, and it’s beautiful.
A Brief History of Custom Nixie Tubes
[Dalibor Farny] has done it again. In Fall 2013, we covered [Dalibor]’s hobby of making DIY Nixie tubes and admired how professional they looked. Then in 2016, we found out [Dalibor] escalated the craft, making custom Nixie tube manufacturing his actual profession, with a video of the process which is itself a work of art (seriously, stop reading and go watch it if you haven’t already). We checked our calendar, and now it’s Fall 2019. Which means only one thing. Well, probably lots of things, but it definitely means it’s time for an update. And update you, we shall.
The big problem with the 2016-2019 version of [Dalibor]’s nixie tubes is that they were still just numbers being put into clocks. The price of vintage, tested IN18s is anywhere from $35 to $100 USD on eBay, but [Dalibor]’s custom numerical displays, while bigger than IN18s, are more like $150 each. It’s a deluxe tube, but that’s undeniably a de-luxe price for something that is essentially an IN18.
Custom Nixie Tubes are Custom
[Dalibor] has finally given us a reason to consider going the deluxe route — customization. The world is our oyster now, nixie tubes can finally be whatever we want them to be. You could get a Nixie tube with a cat-shaped element, or your face, or a ghost. Or a ghost of a cat with your face. We won’t judge.
It’s also worth pointing out that this example is just one layer. A normal, numerical display tube has ten layers (0-9). So, you could theoretically build a tube with 10 different custom shapes or build in animations. Holy cold-cathode, Batman!
While this option isn’t published on daliborfarny.com or publicly announced, it clearly exists if you ask nicely. The proof is in the Twitter pudding. Could we be on the brink of another nixie tube revolution? Look for our article in Fall 2022 and find out.