These Fake Nixie Tubes Have A Bootup Screen

[IMSAI Guy] bought a fake Nixie clock, and luckily for all of us has filmed a very close look and demonstration. Using OLED displays as the fake Nixie elements might seem like cheating to some, the effect is really very well done.

Clock digits with bootup screens is something we didn’t know we liked until we saw it.

When it comes to Nixie elements, it’s hard to say which gets more attention and project time from hardware folks: original Nixie tube technology, or fake Nixie elements. Either way, their appeal is certainly undeniable.

Original Nixie tubes have shown up in modern remakes of alarm clocks, and modern semiconductors make satisfying a Nixie tube’s power requirements much easier with clever and compact Nixie drivers costing under $3 USD. This is also a good time to remind people that Nixie tubes don’t have to be digits. This audio spectrum visualizer, for example, uses IN-13 tubes which serve as elements of a bar graph.

Authentic Nixie elements require high voltages and are labor-intensive to manufacture to say the least, and as far as fake Nixie elements go, this one looks pretty good once it lights up. You can see it in action in the video, embedded below.

34 thoughts on “These Fake Nixie Tubes Have A Bootup Screen

    1. It’s not just kids that do this. These are sometimes necessary tricks in professional bare-metal embedded systems. Some users are so accustomed to seeing boot screens and processing delays that an instant startup or instant write to memory actually unnerves them. (“Is it on? Is it really running? Did it really save my settings? Maybe its broken?”). In those cases, you have to artifically throttle back the response times to give the user the experience they expect.

  1. there isn’t any technical things in that video – just him opening and running it… And they are out of stock if you want one..
    If it had an open spec to program I suspect they would sell a lot, as I could think of quite a few things to do with it..

      1. Visible, yes, but only as shadows. That is, to be accurate, the lit-up symbols should have a black hex pattern, since the anode blocks the light. And for that matter, the un-lit digits in front if the lit one should also show up as black gaps in the digit. Segments BEHIND the lit segment may be slightly illuminated by the lit digit as well, if you want to be accurate. Since none of this would be any more difficult than the work someone went through to produce these images, I can only assume that they never saw an actual Nixie® tube in operation. Which is a bit of a shame – they were flawed, but beautiful.

    1. I agree. It looks butt ugly to me, and I agree with the post below that “filament LEDs” (actually just strings of LED chips on a glass filament) would look far better and more authentic.

  2. My mom asked me what I wanted for a HS graduation present. I chose a Nixie tube clock kit, from B&F Enterprises in Peabody, MA (it was 1972). It’s on the bench right now, while I debug a leading digit problem and convert it to 24 hour time. Those Burroughs Z1000 Nixies are still working.

  3. I notice that the boot-up includes a status line about “setting network” and “loading network” that leave me a bit suspicious about the device. Hopefully, the clock only uses the “network” for an NTP query, but given the current penchant for companies to snoop, I’d be suspicious of anything like a time-settable clock that uses a network. Hopefully, IMSAI Guy is aware of /all/ the network traffic this clock puts out.

    Also, we don’t see IMSAI Guy /setting up/ a network connection, and there doesn’t seem to be a menu to do so in the simple menu sheet he shows, so….. what network is the clock setting up?

    1. If it’s like similar wireless devices using an ESP chip of some kind, they start by creating a WiFi AP that you can connect to which gives you access to a web interface that you use for configuring it with a network or other settings. Then it restarts the network in client mode and connects to whatever AP you configured. You can often still reach the web interface on that network as well–once you figure out the IP of the device–it may support mDNS which makes the job a lit easier.

      Several devices I have work that way at least.

  4. It looks like this company has had an issue with counterfeits and knockoffs (which isn’t surprising, given the appeal and buzz from articles like this). The hardware differences are enough that the real firmware bricks the fake ones and the fake firmware bricks the real ones. The OEM one, at least, also seems to have more in stock, for what that’s worth.

  5. I am sorry, i really don’t get it.
    I never understood, why people wanted to place blue (or any other color) LEDs under a nixie tube
    and i even don’t understand, why one want to have such a fake, even if you can get real nixies.
    You can make so many other cool things with these kind of display, so why fake a thing that even exist and looks so much better in original than a digital display.
    I don’t see any (not even aestethic) reasons for this.

    1. I can’t say I see a purpose even if you can’t find nixie’s for a good enough price. I’ve got a VFD clock, but if I couldn’t get a real display I’d not have faked it unless I could make it look very convincing, and maybe not even then. Sort of like implementing a rotary dial using a touchscreen… it’s not the same as the original and it’s not as good as the new stuff can be.

  6. That guy, here:
    “This is also a good time to remind people that Nixie tubes don’t have to be digits.”

    Yeah, Nixie® tubes can also have “+”, “-“, “AC”, and other special symbols. They do NOT, however, come in bar-graph displays. Just because the company making IN-* cold-cathode numerical displays also makes bar-graph displays, does not make either of these “Nixies®”. Please make up a new word instead of trying to redefine a very well-defined existing one.

    1. Some more nitpicking: only character/number indicator tubes and only if made by Burroughs qualify as NIXIEs, to my knowledge no other manufacturer of indicator tubes ever licensed or used that trademark – at least not ITT, Philips and Soviet tube factories, they do not even mention NIXIE or Burroughs in their Catalogs.
      The “bar-graph display” or linear glow-discharge indicator is an advanced version of a tuning indicator that was in use in the early 1930 (Duovac Tune-a-lite, Philips 4662, etc.), soon to be replaced by magic eyes.

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