Small in size, low-resolution, blocky segments, and a limited color palette — all characteristics of the typical vacuum fluorescent display, any of which would seem to disqualify them as the display of choice for a lot of applications. But this is Hackaday, and we don’t really pay much attention to what we’re supposed to do, but rather to what’s fun and cool to do. So when we see something like a VFD game console, we just have to sit up and take notice.
In a lot of ways, the design of [Simon Boak]’s Arduino-based VFD console is driven by his choice of display. The Noritake Itron GU20X8-301 VFD is a “tricolor” display with eight rows of 20 rectangular pixels. Each pixel is composed of six short linear segments, with alternating red and blue colors. Turning on either set of segments yields one of the two base colors, while turning on both yields a sorta-kinda whitish color, if you squint a bit.
[Simon] chose a two-piece design for his console, with a separate controller and display. The controller holds the Arduino Nano and all the controls, plus a piezo buzzer for fun. The display case connects to the controller with a ribbon cable and holds the VFD power supply and driver. To celebrate the retro look of the VFD, both cases are decked out with woodgrain side panels. [Simon] chose appropriately blocky games for the console, like Snake, Conway’s Game of Life, and the venerable snow demo. We’d imagine Pong would be a good choice too, as well as perhaps Tetris if the display were flipped on its side.
We really like the look of this console, and we appreciate putting an otherwise obsolete display to use in a creative way. If you want to learn a little more about these displays, check out this love letter to the VFD.
Continue reading “This Retro Game Console Puts Vacuum Fluorescent Display To Good Use”
What’s wrong with the OEM display on a Prusa I3 Mk3? Nothing at all. Then why replace the stock LCD with a vacuum fluorescent display? Because VFDs are much, much cooler than LCDs.
(Pedantic Editor’s Note: VFDs actually run a little warm.)
At least that’s the reasoning [Scott M. Baker] applied to his Prusa upgrade. We have to admit to a certain affection for all retro displays relying on the excitation of gasses. Nixies, Numitrons, and even the lowly neon pilot light all have a certain charm of their own, but by our reckoning the VFD leads the pack. [Scott] chose a high-quality Noritake 4×20 alphanumeric display module for his upgrade, thriftily watching eBay for bargains rather than buying from the big distributors. The module has a pinout that’s compatible with the OEM LCD, so replacing it is a snap. [Scott] simplified that further by buying a replacement Prusa control board with no display, to which he soldered the Noritake module. Back inside the bezel, the VFD is bright and crisp. We like the blue-green digits against the Prusa red-orange, but [Scott] has an orange filter on order for the VFD to make everything monochromatic. That’ll be a nice look too.
A completely none functional hack, to be sure, but sometimes aesthetics need attention too. And it’s possible that a display switch would help the colorblind use the UI better, like this oscilloscope mod aims to do.
Continue reading “Prusa Printer Gets An LCD-ectomy, Gains A VFD”
Earlier in the month, [Elliot Williams] quipped that it had been far too long since we saw a VFD-based amplifier build. Well, that dry spell is over. This week, [kodera2t] started showing off his design for a VFD headphone amp.
Here’s the thing, this isn’t using old surplus vacuum fluorescent displays. This is actually a new part. We first covered it about 18 months ago when Korg and Noritake announced the NuTube. It’s the VFD form factor you would find in old stereo and lab equipment, but housed in the familiar glass case is a triode specifically designed for that purpose.
Check out [kodera2t’s] video below where he walks through the schematic for his amplifier. Since making that video he has populated the boards and taken it for a spin — no video of that yet but we’re going to keep a watchful eye for a follow-up. Since these parts can be reliably sourced he’s even planning to sell it in his Tindie store. If you want to play around with this new tube that’s a pretty easy way to get the tube and support hardware all in one shot. This is not a hack, it’s being used for exactly what Korg and Noritake designed it to do, but we hope to see a few of these kits hacked for specific tastes in amp design. If you do that (or any other VFD hacking) we want to hear about it!
And now for the litany of non-traditional VFD amps we’ve grown to love. There is the Nixie amp where [Elliot] made the quip I mentioned above, here’s an old radio VFD amp project, in this one a VCR was the donor, and this from wayback that gives a great background on how this all works.
Continue reading “Now Is The Golden Age Of Artisanal, Non-Traditional Tube Amps”