Sometimes the best inspiration is limitation. The 555 timer does “one thing” — compares a voltage to a couple thresholds and outputs a signal accordingly. It’s two comparators, a voltage ladder, and a flip-flop. And yet, it’s the most sold single chip of all time, celebrating its 50th birthday this year! So when Hackaday runs a 555 Timer Contest, hackers of all stripes come out with their best work to show their love for the Little DIP That Could.
Far and away the favorite entry was the Giant 555 Timer by [Rudraksha Vegad]. Every one of our judges rated it in the top five, and it took top honors twice. On its face, this is a simple “giant 555 in a box” build, but have a look under the hood. Each sub-module that makes up the 555 — comparators, flip-flop, and amplifier — are made from salvaged discrete parts in actual breadboard fashion, soldered to brass nails hammered into wood. As an end product, it’s a nice piece of woodworking, but as a process of creation, it’s a masterwork in understanding the 555 at its deepest level. We should all make one!
The Menorah555 is a simple design with some very nice tricks up its sleeve. Perhaps the cutest of which is pulling the central candle out and lighting the others with it — a trick that involves a supercapacitor and reed switches. Each of the candle lighting circuits, however, use a 555 timer both for its intended purpose of providing a timed power-on reset pulse, and another 555 is used as a simple flip-flop. It’s a slick design, and a great user interaction.
The Cyclotone Mechanical Punk Console Sequencer is a rotating tower of circuit sculpture and noisemakers. This one looks great, is amazingly well documented in the video series, and uses a billion clever little tricks along the way. The 555’s role? Each of the four levels is the classic Atari Punk Console circuit.
All three of these projects win a $150 shopping spree at Digi-Key. That’s a lot of timers!
You had one task — blink an LED with the 555. [Sami] made a PCB of an Audi e-tron for a departing colleague. What can we say? The LEDs blink with 555s, and the board looks snazzy.
Turns out that you can make a 4 MHz radio transmitter out of just two LMC555s. (They’re the fast ones.) Indeed, the circuit’s only semiconductors are the two 555s. One creates the carrier frequency, and the other simply inverts the signal. The two of them in tandem form a push-pull amplifier, for “maximum” power. 4 MHz with a 555 oscillator isn’t bad!
One of the strangest hacks, hands-down, is the Accordeonator. It’s made out of a CD drive, and pulling the CD sled in and out turns the drive motor, which is used as a generator to power the whole circuit. Seven buttons connect up timing resistors to the 555, which makes the music. Very cool!
Shouldn’t Have Used a 555
If there are times when you should have, there must also be times when you shouldn’t, right? For instance, you probably shouldn’t use 555s as stepper motor drivers, or as counters, in this leaping-frog LED sculpture. A 555 definitely doesn’t have the precise temporal resolution necessary to glitch an STM8’s read-only protection bit, right? Certainly you wouldn’t bit-bang the DMX512 serial protocol or make a serial ADC with a 555? And if you shouldn’t use a 555, does it count if you turn an ATTiny85 into a drop-in replacement?
This category didn’t disappoint, and we’re not surprised. Tell Hackaday readers what they can’t do, and they’ll do it!
Art for Art’s Sake
Finally, our judges really liked CS 555, a wholly circuit-sculpture discrete 555, and the Spirit of the ’62 Rambler Nixie Clock which animates an old car’s dash as if driven by a ghostly force. Of course it’s a 555.
We honestly didn’t know that we needed an honorable mention category for making your own 20-pin 555-timer based silicon, but apparently we did. [Adrian Freed] has a pair of new 555-based IC designs that include other features on-chip: one with eight output buffers and a counter, and another with the guts of a linear-feedback shift register inside. His demo example? Blinking a bunch of LEDs, naturally. We’d love to see more detail about this project in the future.
… and More
Kudos to all entrants in the contest! You should really take some time to browse all of the entries, and not just those that resonated most with us. Because who knows, you might just find yourself stranded on a desert island, with only a crate of 555s on hand, and need to reconstruct modern society.
Thanks again to our sponsor Digi-Key for the prizes and the support!
25 thoughts on “Congratulations Winners Of The 555 Timer Contest!”
Really cool entries! Congrats to everyone who participated.
Love the giant 555 and the other projects. Congrats to all!
Hello everyone 😀
Thank you soo much to the judges, Hackaday staff , all the enthusiasts all over the world for giving so much love to my project “Giant 555 timer” and choosing me one of the winner. It was a fascinating experience participating this contest.
I also congratulate to the other two winners.
Thanking Digikey and Hackaday for organizing this legendry 555 commemorative contest.
555 contest winner wins… Without using a 555!
Well technically it is a 555 timer (essentially identical circuitry) and he did use it to do something with so technically he did use ‘a’ 555 timer.
Given multiple manufacturers produce the 555 timer he could be regarded as just another 555 manufacturer – who will only ever create one device ;)
Good try. Not convincing.
Try 2 lol
For something like the LM555N
The LM donates the manufacture or license to manufacture.
The N donates the package type, N being DIP – Duel In-line Plastic
And the 555 donates the specification number to which the circuit conforms.
So as long as it’s simply called a 555 and conforms to the specification number 555 then it “is” a 555.
We really needed a “Should Have Just Used a 555” category for Giant 555 and CS555. Could have saved on a lot of tricky hand-wiring. :)
Where are CPLDCPU’s projects ?
It’s a bit disappointing indeed. It appears that none of the NE555 logic project even got a mention.
There were also a couple of other ones that quite some effort was spent on, for example this one:
Another “serious electronics” project that’s quite cool, despite not being logic:
And then I am just confused about the purported NE555 ASIC that is mentioned above:
It really has none of the smell of an actual custom design.
I like the HaD.io format, but sometimes I wish it was a bit more sciency/engineeringly…
this one is also a great NE555 logic project that obviously a lot of time was spent on:
I loved the 555ENabled CPU! As did a couple of our judges. In retrospect, we probably should have had a 555 Logic award, or something.
I think a lot of judges have a tough time with projects that aren’t physically realized. In fact, one of the remarks from someone who scored it highly read “too bad it wasn’t made”. (Too bad? Are you kidding? That would be a huge waste of $$$$!)
And I’m not saying that you should do what the judges will likely give most points to — that way lies the evils of clickbait and YouTube-algorithm-tuned-content. But that we should work on at least having a “conceptual 555” category next time so that great stuff like this doesn’t get left out.
and that’s one of the reasons why I do not take part in contests for a while now…
If a project isn’t physically realized, it’s not a project. It’s just an idea. It may be a extensively thought out and excellent idea, but just an idea.
I have a great idea for cold fusion reactor hack that’ll harness perpetual motion. I’m positive it will work…at least theoretically on paper!
Yeah, but he also did all the circuit work, and it’s pretty clear that it would work. In some sense, the theoretical “yes, it’ll go” is the point here too.
I dunno. I thought it was hella clever. But I also understand why it didn’t “contest” well, being occasionally (though not this time) on the judging side of things.
I think discussing whether something was built or not is a bit sidestepping the topic. I felt that not much consideration was given to the engineering aspects of the contributions, also pointing to the projects I linked.
What constitutes a “Hack” is certainly in the eye of the beholder. For someone coming from a more “engineering” mindset, it’s maybe not about designing a fancy looking PCB or building a circuit sculpture but instead bending the rules in other places. I feel that this type of hack has certainly become less frequent on HaD than it was in the past, and the contest judging seems to reflect that a bit. Absuing the NE555 for logic was not extensively explored before, I fell, and none of the 5+ entries in the contest even got mentioned.
Where are the “circuit golf” type projects? Creative abusal of components as a sensor? Utilizing highly clocked MCUs to do things they were never meant to do? (Thinking of all the ESP8266 hacks a few years ago).
To get back to the “concept”: The PCB design including components was actually part of the project, so calling it a concept is undervaluing the work a bit, I think. I actually built a smaller project to prove the logic style, since I was obviously aware of the issue. But well, not an easy pitch, I agree, and a moot point by now.
Btw, thanks for replying :)
I hope my other post does not sound too acerbic. It’s rather meant as a wish to have more engineering style hacks on HaD.
I agree 100%
You tube is full of income generating channels with things like “look what I can make in my $120000 workshop.
It’s probably harder to make something that is a “hack” in a $120000 workshop as you would have to be truly innovative.
Anyway most good hacks come from doing something exceptional within tight constraints. Tight constraints being NOT what you have in a a $120000 workshop.
The way i see it, the more money that has been spent on it, the more it has to be truly innovative to even be called a hack.
Funny story about the 555 timer:
My Electronics 3 lecturer (Professor Graham Rigby) at UNSW Elec Eng in mid 1980s told us (roughly from memory of many years ago!) how he and a colleague both working in a US company and were developing alternate generic, easy to use PLL based timer chips.
He developed a very fancy and extremely configurable device with 16 pins.
His colleague developed a smaller, less capable but still very generic and configurable device which only used 8 pins.
Back in the day (early 1970s?) price was typically related to pin count so less pins meant cheaper.
The company chose to manufacture his colleague’s design: even though less capable, it was still sufficient for most applications and it had only 8 pins!
That device is what we now know as the 555 timer chip – the rest is history!
interesting, my other, longer, comment got filtered? weird.
The one with all the links? Is it there now?
Are there going to be future contests?
“All three of these projects win a $150 shopping spree at Digi-Key. That’s a lot of timers!”
Hopefully there isn’t an expiration on the prize. It’d be a lot of timers as long as they’re in stock. If only we had a working design for a 555 using salvaged discrete components…
Does the global parts shortage include 555s now?
I’d love to see a contest for the 555’s friend the 741 (or similar). Perhaps not specifically the 741 but a modern op-amp that is of reasonably average price range. Even quad op-amps or should I say especially more op-amps.
They’re just as cheap and bread board friendly as many modern uC’s. It would make a lot of sense for the project to have a uC. Op-amps are wonderful for sensors and signal conditioning anyway.
It would give the old-hands an excuse to pass on some analogue skills and give the young-hands some helpful tips on what may seem to them to be a black art.
Hacking seems to be hitting a wall in that there’s modules for everything and there are just as many corresponding libraries now. Just about anything that can be done with these has been done. To break out of the box, hackers really need to be able to make their own real world sensors and that often requires some knowledge of physics and or at least some analogue knowledge.
Maybe a contect called “that’s not what it’s for” where people use diodes and temperature sensors of something like that.
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