Nixies Adorn A Cold War Relic To Make A Geiger Clock

Say what you will about the centrally planned economies of the Soviet bloc during the Cold War, but their designs had a brutal style all their own. When one comes across an artifact from that time, like a defunct Polish Geiger counter from 1971, one celebrates that style the only way possible: by sticking Nixies tubes on it and making it into a Geiger clock.

Right off the hop, we’ve got to say that we’re in love with the look of [Tom Sparrow]’s build. And we’ll further stipulate that most of the charm comes from the attractive Bakelite case of the original Geiger counter. This looks like the real deal, with the marbleized look presumably caused by different color resins mixing in the mold. [Tom] did an admirable job bringing back the original shine with some polish and elbow grease; no doubt the decades had taken their toll on the original shine. The meter was gutted to make room for the clockworks, which is an off-the-shelf Nixie module. The tubes stick through holes drilled in the top; a pair of LEDs adorn the front panel and an incandescent bulb provides a warm glow behind the original meter. Combined with the original rotary switch and labels, the whole thing has a great look that’s perfect for a desk.

We’ve featured a lot of retro-classic Nixie builds, from digitizing a 1940s radio to a 1970s multimeter turned into a dice-roller. As for Nixie clocks, we’re just glad to take a break from the Nixie steampunk trend for a bit.

[via Dangerous Prototypes]

22 thoughts on “Nixies Adorn A Cold War Relic To Make A Geiger Clock

    1. Second that. The LEDs are too bright and make it look tacky. Dimmer and maybe darker blue LEDs would work better, or better yet, amber or green ones. This makes it look like one of those “vacuum tube” amps from China that use the tubes for decoration only…

  1. If the project’s main criticism is about the color of the LEDs then I would say that it is a success.

    OK, some people don’t like blue (or brightly lite) LED’s. But this is a personal art piece that the creator made in his vision. It’s like arguing that Picasso’s paintings are bad because the artist used vivid colors and/or drew outside the lines.

    I think this is a unique and interesting clock project. Would I do it differently? Certainly, because my personal interpretation of a cold war relic clock to put on a shelf would be my own vision of such a thing. Different strokes for different folks.

  2. Here at Hackaday HQ we have a drinking game: you have to drink every time someone complains about blue LEDs in a Nixie project, could have used a 555 timer, or questions if something is a hack.

    As I pressed the “publish” button on this one, I pulled up a nice bottle of my favorite whiskey from the Jolly Wrencher’s cellar. Y’all haven’t disappointed! (Hic!)

  3. I suspect you’re going to need a bigger bottle (and weekly restocking); All the angry moths are drawn to the interweb’s candle flame. Unfortunately HAD readership is no exception.

    I propose a rule: No negative comments allowed until your own cherished project has published on HAD. As they say, walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

    And for the record, I’ve had several of my personal projects appear on HAD. With the usual mixed-bag feedback. This probably explains why I won’t post negative comments on other HAD maker projects. I’ve strolled in their shoes.

    1. Because a gieger counter of unknown origin and status would have been so much more useful?

      I love “recycling” old cases, power supplies, displays, meters, switches, pots, knobs, buttons, etc. I use them to build unique gadgets that look like they could have existed back in the day. It’s like using the best components of two different worlds to build something new.

      Nothing old or new is so perfect that it can’t be improved or totally re-imagined as something completely different.

  4. I legit sometimes consider taknig apart my MODERN devices, just to replace the hordes of eye piercing blue LEDs with some nice amber or green or red LEDs instead… Maybe up the resistor values a bit. I don’t need christmas lights built into every device I own. I to shall jump onto the bandwagon in saying blue LEDs are unpleasant in many of their applications.

    I can respect individual styling. That’s fine. I just got over blue LEDs after the first month of having them in my monitors, my modem, my video capture box, my router… I don’t want more. Obviously the creator of this wanted more. To each their own.

    As for the Geiger counter, I’m mildly familiar with that style, if only because I almost bought one. I really like the utilitarian aesthetic of it, and it reminds me of a few other artifacts I snagged from the old cold war rival. For whatever reason, I never did buy the piece. It was nice to see one get used for a cool project, even if I don’t care for the LEDs. Everything else about it is kinda cool. I love the overall style of the device and the non LED details that went into it.

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