A Dim Bulb Tester Is For Testing Other Equipment, Not Bulbs

If you’re testing old stereo equipment, a dim bulb tester can really come in handy. It’s not for testing bulbs, though, it’s a tester that uses a dim bulb to test other things. [Nicholas Morganti] explains it all in his guide to making your own example of such a tool. Just be wary — you need to know what you’re doing with mains voltages to do this safely!

The dim bulb is a deceptively simple tool that nonetheless often proves useful in diagnostics. It normally just consists of a bulb connected in series with the equipment under test. The bulb is intended to be a similar wattage to the power draw of the equipment itself. Take for example, an amplifier. If the bulb glows brightly when the amp is under no load, it suggests there may be a short circuit somewhere. That’s because the glowing bulb indicates that plenty of current is being drawn under a condition when very little should be flowing. The bulb protects the equipment by essentially acting as a bit of a current limiting device. It’s a soft-start tool for a piece of vulnerable equipment.

Building one is usually as simple as gathering an enclosure, a plug receptacle, a bulb socket, and some other ancillary parts to lace everything together. [Nicholas] explains it all with clear diagrams and tells you how to follow along. It’s easy enough, but you really need to know what you’re doing to use one safely, as mains voltages are involved.

It’s a great tool to have if you’re getting into amplifier repair or similar work on old gear. If you’ve been whipping up your own must-have tools, don’t hesitate to let us know!

Incandescent 7-Segment Displays Are Awesome

When we think of 7-segment displays as the ubiquitous LED devices that sprung into popularity in the 1970s. However, numbers have existed for a lot longer than that, and people have wanted to know what the numbers are for quite some time, too. Thus, a variety of technologies were used prior to the LED – such as these magnificent incandescent 7-segment displays shown off by [Fran Blanche].

The displays are basic in concept, but we imagine a little frustrating in execution. Electronics was tougher back in the days when valves needed huge voltages and even a basic numerical display drew a load of current. Built to industrial-grade specifications, they’re complete with a big heatsinking enclosure and rugged gold-plated connectors. [Fran] surmises that due to the likely military applications of such hardware, the filaments in the bulbs were likely built in such a way as to essentially last indefinitely. The glow of the individual segments has a unique look versus their LED siblings; free of hotspots and the usual tapered shape on each segment. Instead, the numerals are pleasingly slab-sided for a familiar-but-not-quite aesthetic.

[Fran] demonstrates the display running with a CD4511B BCD-to-7-segment decoder, hooked up with a bunch of 3904 power transistors to get the chip working with filament bulbs instead of LEDs. It’s a little fussy, but the displays run great with the hardware sorted.

We’d love to see these used on a very heavy ridiculous watch; nixies aren’t the only game in town after all. If you do happen to make one, be sure to let us know. Video after the break.

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