2022 Sci-Fi Contest: Nixie Calculator Is Resplendent In Walnut Enclosure

The Nixie tube is one of the most popular display technologies amongst the hacker and maker set. Glowing numerals can warm even the coldest heart, particularly when they’re energized with hundreds of volts. [ohad.harel] used these glorious displays to build the TORI Nixie Calculator, with beautiful results. 

The build uses seven IN-12 Nixie tubes for numerals, along with an IN-15A which displays mathematical symbols like +, %, and M. It’s equipped with a 32-key keyboard using mechanical key switches. Everything is wrapped up in a beautiful walnut enclosure that fits the tubes and keyboard perfectly, giving the final build a nice mid-century aesthetic.

Impressively, it goes beyond the basic usual calculator functions, also handling conversions between metric and imperial units. It’s a nice feature that would make it a wonderful tool to have on one’s desk beyond the simple aesthetic charm of the Nixie tubes.

Nixie projects never seem to die. Their beauty and warmth captivates builders to this day. Indeed, we’ve even seen some makers go to the trouble of creating new tubes from scratch!

A black PCB with four numeric Nixie tubes on the top, showing 9:26. Under them, a group of black relays is located.

Relay-Driven Nixie Clock Gets You To Stop Scrolling

We don’t often get a Tips line submission where the “Subject” line auto-translates as “Yoshi Yoshi Yoshi”, linking to a short video by [Yasunari Industries] (embedded below). For many, it might be hard to tell what this is at a first glance – however, if the myriad of relays clacking won’t draw your attention, the four Nixie digits on the top definitely will! The gorgeous black PCB has two buttons on the bottom, incrementing hour and minute hours respectively, and observant readers will notice how the LEDs near the relays respond to binary-coded-decimal representation of the digits being shown. This appears to be a relay-based clock with Nixie tubes for digit outputs, and on a scale from “practical” to “eye candy”, it firmly points towards the latter!

The project’s description is quite laconic, but it’s fun to try to figure out what is what based off the few pictures available. The top part with the Nixies and the PIR sensor (presumably for conserving the Nixie tube resources) is V-scored, and a small jumper PCB on the back connects the Nixie module to the relay board – likely, we might see these boards reassembled in a different form-factor, or perhaps find their way into [Yasunari Industries]’ different projects altogether! We can see a Digispark board in the bottom right corner, and wonder if, with addition of that, this board is able to function as a standalone clock — hopefully it does, because that’s one gorgeous addition. And, of course, it all couldn’t happen without help of a bunch of red wires on the back of the board – the author says that some segments were reversed, and the high-voltage PSU section of the board was mis-wired.

Nixie tubes have a dedicated fan base over here, and we keep covering projects that find yet unexplored ways to use Nixies, such as a circular FFT display, or a high-speed camera calibration fixture. Sometimes, Nixie tubes feel like this special sauce you can add to your creation, which explains their popularity in all kinds of barely even counting-adjacent projects, like this TODO indicator. And when we run out of Nixies, we find ways to imitate them – whether it’s with tiny IPS displays, or with layered laser-cut acrylic!

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Rows of nixie tubes in clear acrylic

Binary Clock Lets The Nixies Glow

We’re not here to talk about another clock. Okay, we are, but the focus isn’t about whether or not it can tell time, it’s about taking a simple idea to an elegant conclusion. In all those ways, [Marcin Saj] produced a beautiful project. Most of the nixie clocks we see are base-ten, but this uses base-two for lots of warm glow from more than a dozen replaceable units.

There are three rows for hours, minutes, and seconds. The top and bottom rows are labeled with an “H” and “S” respectively displayed on IN-15B tubes, while the middle row shows an “M” from an IN-15A tube. The pluses and minuses light up on IN-12 models so you’ll need eighteen of them for the full light show, but you could skimp and use sixteen in twelve-hour mode since you don’t need to count to twenty-four. We won’t explain how to read time in binary, since you know, you’re here and all. The laser-cut acrylic is gorgeous with clear plastic next to those shiny nixies, but you have to recreate the files or buy the cut parts as we couldn’t find vector files amongst the code and schematics.

Silly rabbit, nixies aren’t just for clocks. You can roll your own, but they’re not child’s play.

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Nixie Robot Head with LED eyes and retro-futuristic design

Artful Nixie Bot Sculpture Sees, Thinks, And Talks

When [Tavis] and his father were inspired to lend their talents to building a robot sculpture, they split the duties. [Tavis]’ father built a robot head, and [Tavis] utilized designs old and new to breathe life into their creation.

Many a hardware hacker has been inspired by robotic art over the years. Whether it’s the vivid descriptions by the likes of Asimov and Clarke, the magnificent visuals from the formative 1927 film Metropolis, or the frantic arm-waving Robot from Lost In Space, the robots of Science Fiction have impelled many to bring their own creations to life.

For [Travis]’s creation, Two rare Russian Nixie Tubes in the forehead convey what’s on the robot’s mind, while dual 8×8 LED matrices from Adafruit give the imagination a window to the binary soul. A sound board also from Adafruit gives voice to the automaton, speaking wistful words in a language known only to himself.

A DC to DC converter raises the LiPo supplied 3.7v to the necessary 170v for the Nixies, and a hidden USB-C port charges the battery once its two-hour life span has expired. Two custom Nixie driver boards are each host to an Arduino Pro Micro, and [Tavis] has made the PCB design available for those wishing to build their own Nixie projects.

As you can see in the video below the break, the results are nothing short of mesmerizing!

Of course, we’re no strangers to robots here at Hackaday. Perhaps we can interest you in a drink created by the industrial-grade Robotic Bartender while you consider the best way to Stop the Robot Uprising. And remember, if you spot any awesome hacks, let us know via the Tip Line!

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Relay Logic Nixie Tube Clock Checks All The Boxes

There are a few words in the electrical engineering lexicon that will perk any hardware hacker’s ears. The first of course is “Nixie tubes” with their warm cold war era ambiance and nostalgia inducing aura. A close second is “relay logic”. Between their place in computing and telecom history and the way a symphony of click and clatter can make a geek’s heart go pitter patter, most of us just love a good relay hack. And then there’s the classic hacker project: A unique timepiece to adorn our lair and remind us when we’ve been working on our project just a little too long, if such a thing even exists.

With those things in mind, you can forgive us if we swooned ever so slightly when [Jon Stanley]’s Relay Logic Nixie Tube Clock came to us via the Tip LineAdorned with its plethora of clicking relays and set aglow by four Nixie tubes, the Relay Logic Nixie Tube Clock checks all our boxes. 

[Jon] started the build with relay modules that mimic CD4000 series CMOS logic chips. When the prototype stage was complete, the circuit was recreated on a new board that mounts all 55 Omron relays on the same PCB. The result? A glorious Nixie tube clock that will strike envy into even the purest hacker’s heart. Make sure to watch the video after the break!

[Jon] has graciously documented the entire build and even makes various relay logic boards available for purchase if you’d like to embark on your own relay logic exploits . His site overflows with unique clock projects as well, so you can be sure we’ll be checking those out. 

If you feel inspired to build your own relay logic project, make sure you source genuine Omron relays, especially if your Relay Computer Masterpiece takes six years to build.

Thanks to [Daniel] for sending this our way. Got a cool project you’d like to share? Be sure to send it in via the Tip Line

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Think IN18s Are Cool? Get A Load Of This Must-Have Custom Nixie Tube

Us: “I’ll take Retro style displays we absolutely have to have for $200, Alex.”

Trebek: “This nixie tube is unlike any conventional tube you’ve seen before, handbuilt and NOT numbers or letters.”

Us: “What is FriendlyWire’s new logo tube?”

Trebek: “Heck yeah.”

Nixie tubes are the vacuum technology that manages to do far less than a graphic LCD while looking about a million times cooler. Generally speaking, these tubes are no longer manufactured, and the old stock you can get your hands on usually contain a set of filaments shaped like numbers. But @FriendlyWire’s tweet of this Nixie tube by [Dalibor Farny] breaks both of those rules. This handmade tube isn’t just a numerical display or a colon display (the punctuation mark, get your head out of the gutter). It’s a custom logo, and it’s beautiful.

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The Badgies: Clever, Crazy, And Creative Ideas In Electronic Design

Engineering creativity comes to life when you have to design around a set of constraints. We can do just about anything with enough time, talent, and treasure, but what can you do when shackled with limitations? Some of the most creative electronic manufacturing tricks spring to life when designing conference badges, as the ability to built multiples, to come in under budget, and most importantly to have the production finished in time are all in play.

This happens at conferences throughout the year and all over the globe, but the highest concentration I’ve seen for these unique pieces of art is at DEF CON every year. I loved seeing dozens of interesting projects this year, and have picked a handful of the coolest features on a badge to show off in this article. I still love all the rest, and have a badge supercut article on the way, but until then let’s take a look at an RC car badge, a different kind of blinky bling, and a few other flourishes of brilliance.

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