Modernizing a 170 year old Antique Grandfather Clock

Frankly, we let out a yelp of despair when we read this in the tip line “Antique Grandfather clock with Arduino insides“! But before you too roll your eyes, groan, or post snark, do check out [David Henshaw]’s amazing blog post on how he spent almost eight months working on the conversion.

Before you jump to any conclusions about his credentials, we must point out that [David] is an ace hacker who has been building electronic clocks for a long time. In this project, he takes the antique grandfather clock from 1847, and puts inside it a new movement built from Meccano pieces, stepper motors, hall sensors, LEDs, an Arduino and lots of breadboard and jumper wires while making sure that it still looks and sounds as close to the original as possible.

He starts off by building a custom electro-mechanical clock movement, and since he’s planning as he progresses, meccano, breadboard and jumper wires were the way to go. Hot glue helps preserve sanity by keeping all the jumper wires in place. To interface with all of the peripherals in the clock, he decided to use a bank of shift registers driven from a regular Arduino Uno. The more expensive DS3231 RTC module ensures better accuracy compared to the cheaper DS1307 or similar clones. A bank of RGB LEDs acts as an annunciator panel inside the clock to help provide various status indications. The mechanical movement itself went through several iterations to get the time display working with a smooth movement of the hands. Besides displaying time, [David] also added a moon phase indicator dial. A five-rod chime is struck using a stepper motor driven cam and a separate solenoid is used to pull and release three chime hammers simultaneously to generate the loud gong sounds.

And here’s the amazing part – he did all of this before laying his hands on the actual grandfather clock – which was shipped to him in California from an antique clock specialist in England and took two months to arrive. [David] ordered just the clock housing, dial/face and external parts, with none of the original inner mechanism. Once he received it, his custom clock-work assembly needed some more tweaking to get all the positions right for the various hands and dials. A clock like this without its typical “ticktock” sound would be pretty lame, so [David] used a pair of solenoids to provide the sound effect, with each one being turned on for a different duration to produce the characteristic ticktock.

At the end of eight months, the result – christened Judge – was pretty satisfying. Check the video below to judge the Judge for yourself. If you would like to see some more of [David]’s clockwork, check out Dottie the Flip Dot Clock and A Reel to Reel Clock.

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80’s Smartwatch Finally Plays Tetris

While the current generation of smartwatches have only been on the market for a few years, companies have been trying to put a computer on your wrist since as far back as the 80s with varying degrees of success. One such company was Seiko, who in 1984 unveiled the UC-2000: a delightfully antiquated attempt at bridging the gap between wristwatch and personal computer. Featuring a 4-bit CPU, 2 KB of RAM, and 6 KB of ROM, the UC-2000 was closer to a Tamagotchi than its modern day counterparts, but at least it could run BASIC.

Dumping registers

Ever since he saw the UC-2000 mentioned online, [Alexander] wanted to get one and try his hand at developing his own software for it. After securing one on eBay, the first challenge was getting it connected up to a modern computer. (Translated from Russian here.) [Alexander] managed to modernize the UC-2000’s novel induction based data transfer mechanism with help from a ATtiny85, which allowed him to get his own code on the watch, all that was left was figuring out how to write it.

With extremely limited published information, and no toolchain, [Alexander] did an incredible job of figuring out the assembly required to interact with the hardware. Along the way he made a number of discoveries which set his plans back, such as the fact that there is no way to directly control individual pixels on the screen; all graphics would have to be done with the built-in symbols.

The culmination of all this hard work? Playing Tetris, naturally. Though [Alexander] admits that limitations of the device’s hardware meant the game had to be simplified a bit, he’s almost certainly having more fun than any of the UC-2000’s original owners did with this device. He’s setup a GitHub repository for anyone who wishes to join him in this brave new world of vintage wrist computing.

[Alexander] isn’t the only one experimenting with fringe wearable computers. We’ve seen our fair share of interesting smartwatches, featuring everything from novel input methods to complete scratch-builds.

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ESP-Powered Nixie Clock Knows the Time

We see more than our fair share of nixie clocks here at Hackaday, and it’s nice to encounter one that packs some clever features. [VGC] designed his nixie tube clock to use minimal energy to operate: it needs only 5V via USB to work, and draws a mere 200 mA. Nixies require Soviet-approved 180v to trigger, so [VGC] used dynamic indication and a step-up voltage converter to run them, with a 74141 nixie decoder doing the heavy lifting.

The brains of the project is an ESP8266, which connects to his house’s WiFi automatically. The clock simply dials into an NTP server and sets its own time, so no RTC is needed. It also can communicate with the cloud via Telegram, allowing the clock to send alerts to [VGC]’s devices. The ESP’s firmware may likewise be updated over WiFi. The 3D-printed case and flashing second indicators are nice touches on top of the clock functionality.

As we said, everything from wrist watches to dashboard tachometers uses nixies for displays — we love those old-skool tubes!

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Homemade LED Clock Stands Test Of Time

In an era when you might get chastised if your mobile phone is more than two years old, it’s easy to forget that hardware was not always meant to be a temporary commodity. We acknowledge a few standout examples of classic hardware still surviving into the modern era, such as vintage computers, but they’re usually considered to be more of a novelty than an engineering goal. In a disposable society, many have forgotten that quality components and a well thought out design should give you a service life measured in decades, not months.

A perfect example of this principle is the beautiful LED clock built 40 years ago by [Davide Andrea]. A teenager at the time, [Davide] built this clock to be used by the local radio station, as clocks that showed seconds were important for timing radio shows. Finding it in storage recently, [Davide] took to the /r/electronics subreddit to report that it still works fine after all these years.

Cracking open the case shows a unique and highly functional construction style. Notches cut into the side panels of the case accept individual protoboards in a “blade” type configuration, with the blades connected by a handful of individual wires. No digging through the parts bin for a “worthless” old IDE cable to tear up back in the 1970’s.

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Bluetooth Bedroom Clock!

When [decino]’s old bedroom clock finally bit the dust, he built himself a new one from scratch for fun and functionality.

Initially, he wanted to solder Adafruit NeoPixel lights onto four prototype boards, using a mini-USB for power and a DS1307 to keep the time. However, after soldering the board for the first digit and realizing that carrying on with the other three would be a huge pain, he switched to etching the boards instead — a far more efficient solution. In keeping with this time-saving mindset, he added a Bluetooth module that would allow him to update the clock from his phone whenever the DS1307 started dropping minutes or whenever daylight savings time is in effect.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Global Positioning Clock

How do you get the attention of thousands of Hackaday readers? Build a clock! There are just so many choices to agonize over. Do you go with a crystal as a clock source, a fancy oven controlled crystal oscillator, or just mains voltage? Should you even think about putting a GPS module in a clock? All these are very interesting questions that encourage discussion or learning, and that’s what Hackaday is all about. Clocks are cool, and the engineering behind them is even cooler.

For one of [Nick]’s Hackaday Prize entries, he’s building a minimalist GPS clock. First up, the centerpiece of every clock, the display. There are eight seven-segment displays, two each for the hours, minutes, and seconds, and a smaller digit for tenths of a second. These displays are controlled by an ATXmega32E5, an upgrade on an earlier version of this project that only used an ATtiny and a MAX6951 LED driver.

The GPS wizardry is where this project gets really cool. [Nick] is using a SkyTraq Venus838LPx-T (that’s also available on a breakout board on Tindie). This GPS chip has a handy edge mount SMA connector to receive the signals from a GPS satellite, and has a bidirectional UART to dump the NMEA time codes and a PPS output. By combining the timecode, PPS output, and playing around with the timers on the microcontroller, [Nick] has a fantastically accurate clock that also looks great.

The Web Clock You Can Control Over a LAN

Not every project is meant to solve a new problem. Some projects can be an extension of an existing solution just to flex the geek muscles. One such project by [limbo] is the Web Clock 2.0 which is an internet-connected clock.

Yes, it uses a WEMOS D1 mini which is equipped with an ESP-12F (ESP8266) and yes, it uses an LCD with an I2C module to interface the two. The system works by connecting to the Google servers to get GMT and then offsets it to calculate the local time. It also has the hourly nagging chime to let you know that another precious hour of your life has gone and you need to set it up.

What [limbo] adds to the conventional functionality is a LAN application to send custom messages to the LCD. The software is called ‘Clock Commander’ and can be downloaded as a Windows binary through the source code is unavailable for now. Simply point it to the correct IP address and you can then send it commands to display stuff as well as control the sound. The project comes with Lua scripts and instruction how to DIY.

We imagine this can be used to create a custom geeky table clock or hack a digital coo-coo clock to drive your co-workers crazy at the press of a button. For those who are looking for something with lasers, check out the Laser Pointer Clock for a slightly more challenging build. Continue reading “The Web Clock You Can Control Over a LAN”