We’re always fans of interesting clock builds around here, whether it’s a word clock, marble clock, or in this case a clock using a unique display method. Of course, since this is a build by Hackaday’s own [Moritz v. Sivers] the display that was chosen for this build was a custom thermochromic display. These displays use heat-sensitive material to change color, and his latest build leverages that into one of the more colorful clock builds we’ve seen.
The clock’s display is built around a piece of thermochromic film encased in clear acrylic. The way the film operates is based on an LCD display, but using heat to display the segments. For this build, as opposed to his previous builds using larger displays, he needed to refine the method he used for generating the heat required for the color change. For that he swapped out the Peltier devices for surface mount resistors and completely redesigned the drivers and the PCBs around this new method.
Of course, the actual clock mechanism is worth a mention as well. The device uses an ESP8266 board to handle the operation of the clock, and it is able to use its wireless capabilities to get the current time via NTP. All of the files needed to recreate this are available on the project page as well, including code, CAD files, and PCB layouts. It’s always good to have an interesting clock around your home, but if you’re not a fan of electronic clocks like this we can recommend any number of mechanical clocks as well.
Building a clock of some sorts seems to be a time honored tradition for hackers and LED clocks seem one of the most popular. You can build anything from a seven-segment display to a binary clock or something even more fancy. [Clueless] found a circle of LED rings online and with made an LED version of an analog clock.
If binary digits are bits, are quinary digits “quits”? Perhaps, but whatever you call them, you’re going to have to wrap your head around some new concepts in order to make sense of this quinary display clock.
Why quinary? [Spike Snell] wanted to minimize the number of LEDs, and 52 is enough to cover all 24 hours. Binary clocks may have geek chic, but there are only so many ways to display ones and zeros.
[Spike]’s clock is unique because it shows each quit using a single WS2812 Neopixel. The values zero through four are each represented by a different color, meaning the user needs to memorize which color goes with which value, which we suspect is the hardest part of learning this clock. The clock’s software is fairly simple and runs on an ESP8266, and uses NTP to keep on track. The clock self-adjusts for Daylight Savings time, and it has a nice feature that dims the display in the evening to make living with it easier.
Even for those not up on their base-five arithmetic, [Spike]’s clock is still a nice, slowly evolving abstract art piece. And for those who grok the quinary clock, perhaps a career awaits you in an alternate future where bi-quinary relay computers caught on.
For many people, these last few weeks have been quite an adjustment. When the normal routine of work or school is suddenly removed, it’s not unusual for your internal clock to get knocked out of alignment. It might have started with struggling to figure out if it was time for lunch or dinner, but now it’s gotten to the point that even the days are starting to blur together. If it takes more than a few seconds for you to remember whether or not it’s a weekday, [whosdadog] has come up with something that might help you get back on track.
Rather than showing the time of day, this 3D printed clock tells you where you are in the current week. Each day at midnight, the hand will advance to the center of the next day. If you wanted, a slight reworking of the gearing and servo arrangement on the rear of the device could allow it to sweep smoothly through each day. That would give you an idea of your progress through each 24 hour period, but then again, if you don’t even know if it’s morning or night you might be too far gone for this build anyway.
The clock’s servo is driven by a Wemos D1 Mini ESP8266 development board, which naturally means it has access to WiFi and can set itself to the current time (or at least, day) with NTP. All you’ve got to do is put your network information into the Sketch before flashing it to the ESP, and you’re good to go.
The elegance of Power over Ethernet (PoE) is that you can provide network connectivity and power over a single cable. Unfortunately not nearly enough hardware seems to support this capability, forcing intrepid hackers to take matters into their own hands. The latest in this line of single-cable creations is this beautiful Vacuum Fluorescent Display (VFD) clock from [Glen Akins].
One of the key advantages VFDs have over their Nixie predecessors is greatly reduced energy consumption, and after [Glen] ran the numbers, he saw that a display using six VFD tubes could easily be powered with standard PoE hardware. With this information, he started designing the PCB around the early 1990s era IV-12 tube, which has the advantage of being socketed so he could easily remove them later if necessary.
[Glen] first had to create a schematic and PCB footprint for the IV-12 tube that he could import into Eagle, which he was kind enough to share should anyone else be working with these particular tubes down the line. After a test of the newly designed socket was successful, he moved onto the rest of the electronics.
The clock is powered by a Microchip PIC18F67J60, which connects to the Ethernet network and pulls the current time down from NTP. After seeing so many clocks use an ESP to connect to the Internet over WiFi, there’s something refreshing about seeing a wired version. The tube segments are driven by a HV5812, also Microchip branded. Lastly, [Glen] used a number of DC/DC converters to generate the 1.5 V, 3.3 V, 5 V, and 25 V necessary to drive all the electronics and VFDs.
The Myst fans in the audience will love this project because it displays the 25-hour timekeeping system of the D’ni. The hardware hackers will lean a little closer to their screen because it does so with custom made 25-segment LEDs, and the precision obsessed will start breathing heavily when they hear it maintains an accuracy of 0.001 seconds. As for which of those camps creator [Mike Ando] most identifies with, we can’t say. But we definitely respect his style.
We’ll spare you the in-depth description of the base-25 number system apparently used in the Myst franchise. If you’re interested enough you can click on through to the project’s Hackaday.io page and learn how to actually read the clock. Presumably you’ll then come back here and leave your comment in Klingon.
Let’s instead jump right to the part that really gets us excited, those custom displays. To create them, [Mike] cut the face out of black acrylic with a laser, and filled each void with a mixture of clear resin and very fine gypsum plaster. Getting the mix right can be a little finicky as the plaster can clump up, but the end result diffuses the light nicely. The acrylic front panel and a couple of cardboard “gaskets” to keep the light from leaking onto adjacent segments is then stacked on top of a PCB with corresponding 0603 SMD LEDs.
Beyond the soul-crushing number of wires required to hook everything up internally, the rest of the project is relatively straightforward. It uses a WeMos D1 Mini to connect to the WiFi network and pull the current time down from the geographically closest NTP server every couple of hours. Rather than putting a temperature controlled oscillator on the board, [Mike] has decided to pin his accuracy on a constantly on Internet connection and aggressive synchronizations.
If this seems counter-intuitive because a VGA interface is an analogue output rather than a digital input, then you are correct to smell a rat. And he comes clean in his first sentence, as he’s not using the VGA lines themselves but the I2C interface that is a feature of all but the most basic of VGA cards. This is the means by which a plug-and-play operating system can identify a monitor’s capabilities, but there’s little to stop it being used for other purposes. In this case an Arduino fed by a 1-pulse-per-second timing signal from a temperature compensated crystal oscillator provides the I2C peripheral which is polled by NTPd.