Metropolis is a classic, silent film produced in 1927 and was one of the very first full length feature films of the science fiction genre, and very influential. (C-3PO was inspired by Maria, the “Machine human” in Metropolis.) Within the first couple of minutes in the film, we get to see two clocks — one with a 24-hour dial and another larger one with a 10-hour dial. The human overlords of Metropolis lived a utopian 24 hour day, while the worker scum who were forced to live and work underground, were subjected to work in two ten-hour shifts during the same period.
[Aaron]’s client was setting up a Metropolis themed man-cave and commissioned him to build a Metropolis Oscilloclock which would not only show the 24 hour and 10 hour clocks from the film, but also accurately reproduce the clock movements and its fonts. [Aaron]’s Oscilloclock is his latest project in the series of bespoke CRT clocks which he has been building since he was a teen.
The clock is built around a Toshiba ST-1248D vintage oscilloscope that has been beautifully restored. There are some modern additions – such as LED glow indicators for the various valves and an external X-Y input to allow rendering Lissajous figures on the CRT. He’s also added some animations derived from the original poster of the film. Doing a project of this magnitude is not trivial and its taken him almost eight months to bring it from concept to reality. We recommend looking through some of his other blog posts too, where he describes how oscilloclocks work, how he builds the HV power supplies needed to drive the CRT’s, and how he ensures vibration and noise damping for the cooling fans used for the HV power supplies. It’s this attention to detail which results in such well-built clocks. Check out some of [Aaron]’s other awesome Oscilloclock builds that we have featured over the years.
The film itself has undergone several restoration attempts, with most of it being recovered from prints which were discovered in old archives. If you wish to go down that rabbit hole, check out Wikipedia for more details and then head over to YouTube where several versions appear to be hosted.
Continue reading “Decimal Oscilloclock Harks Back To 1927 Movie”
Back in the days of analog TV, vectorscopes were used to view video signals. [Aaron] has taken an old Tek 520A NTSC vectorscope and converted it into his newest oscilloclock.
The scope was originally designed to look at the signal provided by composite video. It draws vectors on a polar plot. By using test patterns such as color bars, you can ensure equipment is creating the correct color output. These scopes were so commonly used that many digital systems still provide a simulated vectorscope for color analysis. Vectorscopes were designed to be left on constantly, which is a good quality for a clock.
[Aaron] has a history of converting oscilloscopes into clocks, which we have featured in the past. This build is similar, using his custom control hardware to drive the display. Since analog vectorscopes are pretty much obsolete, you can find them on eBay at low prices, so these oscilloclocks could be relatively cheap to build.
In the write up, you get a teardown of the Tek 520A, showing the modifications made to build the clock. After the break, check out a video of the Tek 520A Oscilloclock.
Continue reading “A Video Vectorscope Oscilloclock”
Nostalgia aside, there are a few things an analog scope can still do better than a digital, with oscilloscope art being a prime example. The blue-green glow of phosphors in a real CRT just add something special to such builds, and as a practitioner of this craft, [Aaron] decided to paint a New Year’s affirmation on his oscilloscope screen, in Japanese calligraphy of all things.
When used in X-Y mode, analog oscilloscopes lend themselves nicely to vector-based graphics, which is the approach [Aaron] has taken with previous “Oscilloclock” builds, like the Metropolis Clock. The current work, however, doesn’t use vector graphics, opting instead to turn the scope into the business end of a VGA display. He had previously developed the hardware needed to convert a VGA signal into X- and Y-axis analog outputs, so the bulk of the work was rendering the calligraphy, first in ink and then scanning and processing the results into a file. In keeping with the Japanese theme, [Aaron] chose a rare scope from Nihon Tsushinki Co., Ltd., from 1963. It’s a beautiful piece of equipment and obviously lovingly restored, and with the VGA adapter temporarily connected, the four Japanese characters scroll gracefully up the screen, delivering the uplifting message: “Steady progress, day by day.”
[Aaron] sure puts a lot of work into his analog scope builds, which we’ve featured a few times. Check out the clock he made from Grandpa’s old Heathkit scope, or his Tektronic vectorscope clock. And don’t forget about other forms of oscilloscope art — they can make music too, after all.
Around 1960, [Aaron]’s grandfather decided to try his hand at a new career in electronics repair. It didn’t pan out, but before he gave up he built a beautiful Heathkit oscilloscope, a model OR-1. Grandpa’s electronics career never took off, but years later it would serve as the impetus for [Aaron]’s own career in electronics. Now [Aaron] has too many oscilloscopes, but still wanted a way to preserve his grandfather’s legacy. An oscilloclock was just the project to do that.
Of course to turn an oscilloscope into a clock requires some interesting control circuitry, and [Aaron] didn’t skimp on his build. He created a custom control board that is able to draw any shape on the CRT screen using just circles; squashing circles to draw a line, and cutting the beam entirely to slice a circle in half.
This isn’t [Aaron]’s first oscilloclock by a long shot. He previously created this amazing clock completely from scratch. Still, using Grandpa’s old tools is a great way to make this oscilloscope useful again, even if [Aaron] is already up to his gills in test equipment.
That’s a sexy way to use parts from an old oscilloscope. [Aaron] took his inspiration from another project that was using CRTs from old oscilloscopes. Now he’s giving back with a site dedicated to sharing information about the Scope Clock. This project is along the same lines as the one we saw a few days ago.
The image above shows his first build in its new home in Hong Kong. The clock is housed in two clear acrylic containers, paired through a surprisingly beefy military grade connector. You can see the journey that it took to get to this polished finish by going to the Prototype tab at the top of the page linked above. One of the images shows some fast captures of the screen redraw. It lets you see the vectors which are being traced on the phosphor screen by the electron gun. This gives an image that we think is far more pleasing than the row scanning of a traditional CRT monitor.
Of course you don’t have a to start from scratch either. Here’s a clock project that just augments a functional CRT scope.