Turning OLEDs And Acrylic Into Faux Nixie Tubes

Love ’em or hate ’em, Nixies and the retro clocks they adorn are here to stay. At least until the world’s stock of surplus Soviet tubes is finally depleted, that is. The glow discharge tubes were last mass manufactured in the 1980s, and while they’re not too hard to get a hold of yet, they will be eventually. And what better way to get ready for that dreaded day than by rolling your own OLED faux Nixie tubes?

Granted, [Derek]’s faux Nixies, appropriately dubbed “Fixies,” require just a touch of willing suspension of disbelief. We’ve never see Nixies with tiny jam jars as envelopes, so that’s probably the first giveaway. But looking past that, the innards of these fake displays do a pretty convincing job of imitating the texture of the real thing.

The numbers themselves are displayed on a 128×64 white OLED display using a Nixie-like True Type font. An orange acrylic filter in front of the display gives it that warm amber Nixie glow, with laser etchings mimicking both the fine hexagonal anode grid and the ghostly cathodes of the non-illuminated numerals. The tubes looked convincing enough that a clock was in order, and after sorting through an I2C bottleneck with the help of a multiplexer, [Derek] had a pretty decent faux-Nixie clock, complete with a solenoid-actuated mechanical gong. The double-digit display for the seconds will no doubt cause some consternation among Nixie purists, but that’s probably part of the fun.

Of course, just because Nixies aren’t being mass-produced today doesn’t mean you can’t get new ones. You just have to be willing to pay for them, and [Dalibor Farný] will gladly set you up with his handmade artisanal Nixies, or even a clock kit using them.

8 thoughts on “Turning OLEDs And Acrylic Into Faux Nixie Tubes

        1. I am building a small stash of NOS IN-12B’s and IN-17’s. Already have ZM1022’s from almost 20 years ago and B7971’s from 40 years ago when they were $5 each. Unless a huge trove of Russian ones are suddenly unearthed, the remaining stock is already dwindling and prices rising. A lot more used tubes are now appearing as it is becoming economical to unsolder and/or disassemble them from old equipment. They are selling for what NOS tubes sold for only recently.

  1. “willing suspension of disbelieve” brilliant!
    This could look so much better with the half height oleds and the glass of a old tube/valve. the serial connected filament kind going into old tube tv’s should be fine as there is always a surplus of those. in Europe that would be the glass of a PCL82 or EF80 tube.

  2. “OLED Nixie” tickled my brain: replace the cold-cathode + shared anode grid digits of a ‘real’ nixie tube with shaped EL emitters (combined cathode & anode). Metal number, coat with the normal layers for make-your-own-OLED process, then layer discretely into a cosmetic glass tube. With proper colour choice (nice orange emissive, dark grey unenergised) they would appear for all intents and purposes as a real Nixie does from the front, possibly just a little dimmer. From the back, the lack of backside emission would reveal the fake.

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