Simple Stopwatch with two buttons, an eight digit 7-segment display and ICSP programming cable going into the board

Add An OSHW Certified Stopwatch To Your Toolkit

[MakingDevices] has created a simple stopwatch that makes for a nice introduction to surface mount electronic design and assembly. The project is open source hardware (OSHW) certified, with Gerbers, KiCAD files, and software all available.

Conceptually the stopwatch is straight forward, with a row of two four digit seven-segment displays being driven by a PIC18LF14k50 microcontroller through multiple NPN transistors. The PIC doesn’t quite have enough data lines to drive the two displays at once so an inverter is used to toggle between the two seven-segment blocks.

The circuit is continuously powered from a CR2032 coin cell battery. For normal usage with display, [MakingDevices] estimates 30+ hours of operation and 140+ hours without display, but still counting time. When idle, the “Extreme Low-Power (XLP)” capabilities of the PIC put the operating window estimates well beyond the self discharge of the coin cell battery. There’s an in circuit serial programming (ICSP) footprint that accepts a pogo pin TC2030-MCP-NL adapter for flashing the PIC.

Don’t let the simplicity fool you, this is a well documented project with detailed posts about the design, simulation and battery consumption. Various videos and glamour shots give a whole picture of the process, from design, assembly, testing to final validation.

It’d be wonderful to see the project extended or hacked on further, perhaps with a cute enclosure or case.

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battery powered wall mounted clock with LCD display and 10 capacitive touch buttons

A Peppy Low Power Wall Mounted Display

[Phambili Tech] creates a battery powered mountable display, called “the Newt”, that can be used to display information about the time, calendar, weather or a host of other customizable items.

The Newt tries to strike a balance between providing long operating periods while still maintaining high refresh rates and having extensive features. Many of the battery powered devices of this sort use E-Ink displays which offer long operating windows but poor refresh rates. The Newt uses an LCD screen that, while not being as low power as an E-Ink display, offers extended battery operation while still being daylight readable and providing high refresh rates.

The display itself is a 2.7 inch 240×400 SHARP “Memory In Pixel” LCD that provides the peppy display at low power. The Newt is WiFi capable through its ESP32-S2-WROVER module with a RV-3028-C7 Real Time Clock, a buzzer for sound feedback and capacitive touch sensors for input and interaction. A 1.85Wh LiPo battery (3.7V, 500mAh) is claimed to last for 1-2 months, with the possibility of using a larger battery for longer life.

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Digital Light Pipes Clock various view of seven-segment display using illuminated light-pipes

LED Clock Has Its Pipes On Display

For most hackers and makers, building a clock is a rite of passage. Few, though, will be as unusual and engaging as this design by [TerraG2].

By combining addressable LEDs, light pipes and 7-segment displays, [TerraG2] has built a timepiece that looks great and will surely be a great conversation starter as well. It’s packed full of features such as automatic brightness control, an accelerometer controlled user interface, and WiFi to make sure it’s always accurate.

partial rear view of the clock showing illuminated light pipes
Partial rear view of the clock showing illuminated light pipes

The decision to leave the light pipes visible behind the main display really makes the project stand out from other clock builds, and the methods [TerraG2] has used to achieve this look will no doubt be transferable to a host of other projects.

The LEDs are courtesy of a standard 8×8 RGB matrix, with a custom 3D-printed shroud to hold the light pipes in place and a clever connector at the other end to illuminate the segments. With two LEDs per segment, seven segments per digit, and four digits, there’s even room for some extra features down the line if you can think of a use for those eight spare LEDs.

The brain of the project is an ESP8266 D1 with an MPU6050 inertial measurement unit (IMU) to detect when it’s flipped over to change the color scheme.

Full documentation is on Github, and a video of the clock in use is after the break.

Light pipes have been used to great effect in some other clock projects we’ve seen, such as this modern Nixie clock and this “clock of clocks”, as well as in this light organ that we showed recently.

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A clock displaying a micro QR code

LED Clock Uses Micro QR Codes To Show The Time

As you probably know, we love our clocks here at Hackaday. Odd display technologies are always interesting to see, as are unusual encoding techniques such as binary, ternary or higher-radix number systems. Still, clocks are typically meant to be human-readable, even if their encoding might be a little eccentric.

[Kitchi] however built an LED-based clock that is not human-readable, at least not without quite a bit of training. This is because it displays the time by generating a QR code, which only becomes readable to most humans through the use of a smartphone app. Of course, this negates the need for a clock since your smartphone will already have one anyway — but whoever said a clock needs to be useful?

To be fair, the display could conceivably be read by a determined human, since the QR format used is the tiny Micro QR M2 version that measures only 13×13 pixels. It’s capable of storing ten decimal digits, just enough to hold the date and time in mmddhhmmss format. The fixed part of the QR code is made of paper, while the variable part is formed through a grid of 90 white LEDs. The LEDs are mounted on a piece of prototype board along with a PIC 16F1504 microcontroller, two TM1637 LED drivers and a DS1307 real-time clock with battery backup.

If decoding QR codes is not your thing, or you simply haven’t got your smartphone on you, then the QR clock can also be set to a more human-readable format by adding a jumper. The time will then scroll across the LED screen in ordinary decimal format.

The video in the link is in Japanese, with no automatic translation available, but the build process is clearly shown and should be understandable even if you can’t follow the cheerful robotic narrator. We’ve seen a couple of QR-code based clocks before, some with an LCD screen and some with retro styling, but all of those use the larger standard QR code which definitely no human can decode visually. Or can you? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks for the tip, [J. Peterson]!

Circuit-less PCB Featured As Faceplate For A Digital Clock

If there’s no circuitry on a printed circuit board, does it cease being a “PCB” and perhaps instead become just a “PB”?

Call them what you will, the fact that PCBs have become so cheap and easy to design and fabricate lends them to more creative uses than just acting as the wiring for a project. In this case, [Jeremy Cook] put one to work as the faceplate for his “742 Clock,” a name that plays on the fact that his seven-segment display is 42 mm tall, plus it’s “24/7” backward.

In addition to the actual circuit board that holds the Wemos ESP32 module and the LEDs, a circuit-less board was designed with gaps in the solder mask to act as light pipes. Sandwiched between the boards is a 3D printed mask, to control the light and direct it only through the light pipes. [Jeremy] went through a couple of iterations of diffuser and mask designs, finally coming up with a combination that works well and looks good. He mentions a possible redesign of the faceplate board to include a copper backplane for better opacity, which we think is a good idea. We’d also like to see how different substrates work; would boards of different thickness or using FR-4 with different glass transition temperatures work better? Check out the video below and see what you think.

We’re seeing more and more PCBs turn up as structural elements, from enclosures to control panels and even tools, and we approve of this trend. But what we really approve of is what [Jeremy] did here by making this clock just a dumb display that gets network time over NTP. Would that all three digital clocks in our kitchen did the same thing — maybe then they wouldn’t each be an infuriating minute out of sync with the others.

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2022 Hackaday Prize: Talking Clock Built With Old-School Gear

Any smartphone or laptop could be a talking clock if you wished it so. However, we think this build from [Marek Więcek] is more fun, which uses discrete vintage chips to get the job done the old fashioned way.

The work started when [Marek] was tinkering with a 65C02 CPU, giving it an EPROM, some RAM, and some logic ICs to create something akin to a modern microcontroller in functionality. It came to be known as the 6502 Retro Controller Board. Slowly, the project was expanded with various additional modules, in much the same way one might add shields to an Arduino.

In this case, [Marek] expanded the 6502-powered board with a series of 7-segment displays, along with an RTC to keep accurate time. A classic SP0256-AL2 speech synthesis chip was then added, allowing the system to not only show the time, but read it aloud, too. As a bonus, not only can it tell you the hour, minute, day, and date, but it will also read various science-fiction quotes on demand.

Like most 80s speech synths, the output is robotic and a little difficult to parse. However, that’s part of the charm that makes it different compared to the speaking virtual assistants of today.

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Should’ve Used A 555 — Or 276 Of Them

When asked to whip up a simple egg timer, most of us could probably come up with a quick design based on the ubiquitous 555 timer. Add a couple of passives around the little eight-pin DIP, put an LED on it to show when time runs out, and maybe even add a pot for variable timing intervals if we’re feeling fancy. Heck, many of us could do it from memory.

So why exactly did [Jesse Farrell] manage to do essentially the same thing using a whopping 276 555s? Easy — because why not? Originally started as an entry in the latest iteration of our 555 Contest, [Jesse]’s goal was simple — build a functional timer with a digital display using nothing but 555s and the necessary passives. He ended up needing a few transistors and diodes to pull it off, but that’s a minor concession when you consider how many chips he replaced with 555s, including counters, decoders, multiplexers, and display drivers. All these chips were built up from basic logic gates, a latch, and a flip-flop, all made from one or more 555s, or variants like the 556 or 558.

As one can imagine, 276 chips take a lot of real estate, and it took eleven PCBs to complete the timer. A main board acts as the timer’s control panel as well as serving as a motherboard for ten other cards, each devoted to a different block of functions. It’s all neat and tidy, and very well-executed, which is in keeping with the excellent documentation [Jesse] produced. The whole thing is wonderfully, needlessly complex, and we couldn’t be more tickled to feature it.

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