LiquidWatch is Dripping with Style

Some of the entries for the 2017 Coin Cell Challenge have already redefined what most would have considered possible just a month ago. From starting cars to welding metal, coin cells are being pushed way outside of their comfort zone with some very clever engineering. But not every entry has to drag a coin cell kicking and screaming into a task it was never intended for; some are hoping to make their mark on the Challenge with elegance rather than brute strength.

A perfect example is the LiquidWatch by [CF]. There’s no fancy high voltage circuitry here, no wireless telemetry. For this entry, a coin cell is simply doing what it’s arguably best known for: powering a wrist watch. But it’s doing it with style.

The LiquidWatch is powered by an Arduino-compatible Atmega328 and uses two concentric rings of LEDs to display the time. Minutes and seconds are represented by the outer ring of 60 LEDs, and the 36 LEDs of the inner ring show hours. The hours ring might sound counter-intuitive with 36 positions, but the idea is to think of the ring as the hour hand of an analog watch rather than a direct representation of the hour. Having 36 LEDs for the hour allows for finer graduation than simply having one LED for each hour of the day. Plus it looks cool, so there’s that.

Square and round versions of the LiquidWatch’s are in development, with some nice production images of [CF] laser cutting the square version out of some apple wood. The wooden case and leather band give the LiquidWatch a very organic vibe which contrasts nicely with the high-tech look of the exposed PCB display. Even if you are one of the legion that are no longer inclined to wear a timepiece on their wrist, you’ve got to admit this one is pretty slick.

Whether you’re looking to break new ground or simply refine a classic, there’s still plenty of time to enter your project in the 2017 Coin Cell Challenge.

Color changing clock uses PCB digits

There’s an old saying, that you should do everything at least twice. Once to learn how to do it, and then a second time to do it right. Perhaps [Zweben] would agree, since he wasn’t satisfied with his first Neopixel clock and proceeded to build another one. One lesson learned: soldering 180 tiny solder joints isn’t much fun. This time, [Zweben] set out to make a printed circuit board and redesign the clock to make it easier to assemble.

The clock uses multiple copies of a single circuit board. The board holds Neopixel strips in a 7-segment arrangement. Each board can also hold all of the electronics needed to drive the clock. Only the first board gets the microcontroller and other circuits.

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Driver Board Makes Nixie Projects Easier than Ever

We know, we know — yet another Nixie clock. But really, this one has a neat trick: an easy to use, feature packed driver for Nixies that makes good-looking projects a snap.

As cool as Nixies are — we’ll admit that to a certain degree, familiarity breeds contempt — they can be tricky to integrate. [dekuNukem] notes that aside from the high voltages, laying hands on vintage driver chips like the 7441 can be challenging and expensive. The problem was solved with about $3 worth of parts, including an STM32 microcontroller and some high-voltage transistors. The PCBs come in two flavors, one for the IN-12 and one for the IN-14, and connections for the SPI interface and both high- and low-voltage supplies are brought out to header pins. That makes the module easy to plug into a motherboard or riser card. The driver supports overdriving to accommodate poisoned cathodes, 127 brightness levels for smooth dimming, and a fully adjustable RBG backlight under the tube. See the boards in action in the video below, which features a nicely styled, high-accuracy clock.

From Nixie tachs to Nixie IoT clocks, [dekuNukem]’s boards should make creative Nixie projects even easier. But if you’re trying to drive a Nixie Darth Vader, you’re probably on your own.

A Minimalist Weather Clock with a Unique Display

If you’re looking for a home hub to display weather, time, and important family information, the formula is pretty simple: build yet another “magic mirror” project. We’re not complaining — magic mirrors look great. But if all you need is time and weather, this elegant pixel display is something just a little bit different.

Among his many criteria for the perfect hack, [Dominic] lists usefulness, visual appeal, and low cost. We’ll agree that his minimalist weather clock hits all those marks, and with the careful selection of a 16 x 32-pixel RGB display module, [Dominic] ended up giving back to the community by developing an Arduino driver for it. He points out that strips of Neopixels could have been used for the display, but they’d have ended up costing more, so the LED matrix was a sensible choice. A 3D-printed separator grid and a paper diffuser provide the proper pixelated look, and some simple animated icons display the two-day weather forecast. We find the time and temperature numerals a little hard to read, but it’s not bad considering the limited resolution of the display. And the case is a nice bit of woodworking too. Not a bad result for only €43.

We’re intrigued by the P10 LED matrix module [Dominic] used for this one. It might be a good choice for a word clock and weather station, or with his driver, a display for just about anything.

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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