Watch Life Tick Away, One LED Segment At A Time

In the grand scheme of things, a single human lifetime is a drop in the bucket. Even if we don’t like to acknowledge it, we all know the meter is running so to speak. Yet you’re still squandering your precious time on this Earth by reading Hackaday instead of doing something constructive. Of course nobody is burning up more time on this site than those of us who are writing it all, so don’t feel too bad.

To remind us that life is fleeting, [Dries Depoorter] has designed the Shortlife: a device that counts down until your expected departure date. Before you get too excited, it can’t predict the future. The gadget is programmed with the vital statistics for the individual user, and data provided by the World Health Organization is used to calculate how much of your estimated life expectancy has already elapsed. Some would find this information depressing, while others will no doubt look at it as a source of inspiration. Us? We just think its a slick piece of gear.

The Shortlife is made up of a custom PCB mounted to a marbled block of recycled plastic. On the board there’s an ATmega328 microcontroller, a MAX7219 LED driver, and of course the red LED segment displays. Three of them are the classic seven count, while the rightmost display sports fourteen segments for a bit of added accuracy. All the user has to do if they want to watch their remaining time slip away is plug the device into a USB power source and set the current time.

We’ve seen similar mortal countdown clocks in the past, but the Shortlife certainly brings a certain level of elegance to the idea. Plus we also like the fact that you’re just a line of code or two away from having the display tick down to some other date in the future when that whole existential crisis kicks in

15 thoughts on “Watch Life Tick Away, One LED Segment At A Time

  1. There are two comments about this topic I always considered reliant:

    1) Your working life is about 3000 weeks.

    2) Life is like a roll of toilet paper: the closer to the end you get, the faster it goes.

  2. Cool project, but what we really need is IDE plugins that display this same data, so we can think twice before starting another “Quick weekend project” that won’t be. Or even better yet, can we integrate this with neofetch for the distro hoppers?

    What about displaying system uptime in millimort, the probability that the user would have died of natural causes since the last reboot?

  3. I made a similar widget for my Android phone. Instead of displaying percentage of elapsed life till now, it just displays hours until I hit 80.

    A lot less depressing, to be very honest.

    1. I think it depends on the person and their personality. Some people will definitely be depressed and stressed, while others will be motivated to do something with the time they “have left”. Personally I wouldn’t want this clock as I’d be in the former group lol.

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