BINA-VIEW: A Fascinating Mechanical Interference Display

[Fran Blanche] tears down this fascinating display in a video teardown, embedded below.

These displays can support up to 64 characters of the buyer’s choosing which is controlled by 6 bits, surprisingly only requiring 128 mW per bit to control; pretty power-light for its day and age. Aside from alphanumeric combinations the display also supported “color plates” which we found quite fascinating. The fully decked model would only cost you $1,206 US dollars per unit in today’s money or five rolls of toilet paper at latest street price. And that’s just one digit.

If you dig through the documents linked here, and watch her video you can get an idea of how this display works. There are six solenoids attached to rods at the rear of the device. A lamp shines through a lens onto the back of a plate assembly. Each plate is a strategically perforated grid. When the solenoids activate the selected plates tilt interfering with a stationary grid. This causes the light to be blocked in some regions only.

It seems clear why this never took off. Aligning these seems like a production nightmare compared to things like flip displays and Nixie tubes. Still, the characters have quite a lot of charm to them. We wouldn’t mind seeing a 3D printable/laser cut version of this display type. Get working!

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BCD To I2C: Turning A Nixie Counter Into Whatever You Want It To Be

Whenever a project calls for displaying numbers, a 7-segment display is the classic and straightforward choice. However, if you’re more into a rustic, retro, almost mystical, and steampunky look and feel, it’s hard to beat the warm, orange glow of a Nixie tube. Once doomed as obsolete technology of yesteryear, they have since reclaimed their significance in the hobbyist space, and have become such a frequent and deliberate design choice, that it’s easy to forget that older devices actually used them out of necessity for lack of alternatives. Exhibit A: the impulse counter [soldeerridder] found in the attic that he turned into a general-purpose, I2C controlled display.

Instead of just salvaging the Nixie tubes, [soldeerridder] kept and re-used the original device, with the goal to embed an Intel Edison module and connect it via I2C. Naturally, as the counter is a standalone device containing mainly just a handful of SN74141 drivers and SN7490 BCD counters, there was no I2C connectivity available out of the box. At the same time, the Edison would anyway replace the 7490s functionality, so the solution is simple yet genius: remove the BCD counter ICs and design a custom PCB containing a PCF8574 GPIO expander as drop-in replacement for them, hence allowing to send arbitrary values to the driver ICs via I2C, while keeping everything else in its original shape.

Containing six Nixie tubes, the obvious choice is of course to use it as a clock, but [soldeerridder] wanted more than that. Okay, it does display the time, along with the date, but also some sensor values and even the likes on his project blog. If you want to experiment with Nixie tubes yourself, but lack a matching device, Arduino has you obviously covered. Although, you might as well go the other direction then.

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“Glixie” Puts A New Spin On Glow-In-The-Dark Displays

For as many projects as we see using Nixie tubes in new and unusual ways, there’s a smaller but often very interesting cohort of displays that fit into the “Nixie-like” category. These are projects where something other than the discharge of noble gasses is being used to form characters. This scrolling phosphorescent single-character display is one such project, and we think it looks fabulous.

Following the *ixie naming convention characteristic of these builds, [StephenDeVos] dubbed this the “Glixie.” This is on par with the size of a [Dalibor Farny] handmade Nixie, but not so big to be unwieldy. The display modality is glow-in-the-dark film that rotates past a vertical string of UV LEDs, which light up in turn as the cylinder rotates, building up the dot-matrix character column by column. There’s some fading of the first column by the time the whole character is built up, but not enough to be objectionable. We like the whole build, with laser-cut wood and the brass and steel hardware. Check it out in the video below.

If this phosphorescent display strategy seems familiar, it’s because we’ve seen it before. Remember this persistence of phosphorescence display? Or perhaps this time-writing robot clock? It’s not a new idea, but [Stephen]’s execution can’t be beat.

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Just When You Thought There Was Nothing New In Nixie Clocks…

Nixie clocks have become such a staple in our community as to have become mundane. They’re pretty, but show us something new! It seems [Marcin Saj] has done just that with his offering, because with a bank of 18 IN-2 Nixie tubes he’s telling the time –  but in binary rather than the usual decimal.

The tubes are arranged in three banks of six, the upper registering hours, the middle minutes, and seconds on the lowest. Each one only uses two digits, as you might expect from a binary device they are 0 and 1. Behind is a large PCB with the Nixie sockets, and on the back of that in sockets are a pair of Nixie driver boards, a real-time clock module, temperature sensor module, PSU module, and either a Particle Photon or an Arduino Nano IoT.  This two-option set-up for the choice of dev board is unusual, and there is code for both of them in the GitHub repository.

The result is eye-catching and unusual, and certainly a departure from the usual Nixie digital clock. Hackaday readers are probably more likely than the average Joe or Jane to be able to read binary at a glance, watching it in action in the video below the break is an interesting exercise in testing one’s binary-aptitude.

Meanwhile if binary Nixies are too commonplace, how about binary neon lamps?

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Nixies Adorn A Cold War Relic To Make A Geiger Clock

Say what you will about the centrally planned economies of the Soviet bloc during the Cold War, but their designs had a brutal style all their own. When one comes across an artifact from that time, like a defunct Polish Geiger counter from 1971, one celebrates that style the only way possible: by sticking Nixies tubes on it and making it into a Geiger clock.

Right off the hop, we’ve got to say that we’re in love with the look of [Tom Sparrow]’s build. And we’ll further stipulate that most of the charm comes from the attractive Bakelite case of the original Geiger counter. This looks like the real deal, with the marbleized look presumably caused by different color resins mixing in the mold. [Tom] did an admirable job bringing back the original shine with some polish and elbow grease; no doubt the decades had taken their toll on the original shine. The meter was gutted to make room for the clockworks, which is an off-the-shelf Nixie module. The tubes stick through holes drilled in the top; a pair of LEDs adorn the front panel and an incandescent bulb provides a warm glow behind the original meter. Combined with the original rotary switch and labels, the whole thing has a great look that’s perfect for a desk.

We’ve featured a lot of retro-classic Nixie builds, from digitizing a 1940s radio to a 1970s multimeter turned into a dice-roller. As for Nixie clocks, we’re just glad to take a break from the Nixie steampunk trend for a bit.

[via Dangerous Prototypes]

Nixie Clock Claims To Be Simplest Design

[Engineer2you] built a nixie tube clock and claims it is the simplest design. We felt like that was a challenge. In this design, the tubes are set up as a matrix with optoisolators on each row and column. With 60 segments, the matrix allows you to control it all with 16 bits. There are six columns, each corresponding to a digit. That means each row has 10 lines.

The Arduino code reads the clock and produces the output to the tubes fast enough that your eye perceives each digit as being always on, even though it isn’t.

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