The Nixie Tube Killer That Never Was

With the wealth of Nixie projects out there, there are points at which Hackaday is at risk of becoming Nixieaday. Nixie clocks, Nixie calculators, Nixie weather stations, and Nixie power meters have all graced our pages. And with good reason – Nixie tubes have a great retro look, and the skills needed to build a driver are a cut above calculating the right value for a series resistor for an LED display.

But not everyone loved Nixies back in the day, and some manufacturers did their best to unseat the venerable cold cathode tubes. [Fran Blanche] came across one of these contenders, a tiny cathode ray tube called the Nimo, and after a long hiatus in storage, she decided to put the tube to the test. After detailing some of the history of the Nimo and its somewhat puzzling marketing — its manufacturer, IEE, was already making displays to compete with Nixies, and seven-segment LEDs were on the rise at the time — [Fran] goes into the dangerous details of driving the display. With multiple supply voltages required, including a whopping 1,700 V DC for the anode, the Nimo was anything but trivial to integrate into products, which probably goes a long way to explaining why it never really caught on.

If you happen to have one of these little bits of solid unobtanium, [Fran]’s video below will go a long way to bringing back its ghostly green glow. You might say that [Fran] has a thing for oddball technologies of the late 60s — after all, she’s recreating the Apollo DSKY electroluminescent display, and she recently helped a model Sputnik regain its voice.

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[Daito Manabe] Interview: Shocking!

We’ve loved [Daito Manabe]’s work for a while now. Don’t know [Daito]? Read this recent interview with him and catch up. Is he a hacker’s artist, or an artist’s hacker?

My personal favorite hack of his is laser painting apparatus from 2011. The gimmick is that he uses the way the phosphors fade out to create a greyscale image. Saying that is one thing, but watching it all come together in time is just beautiful.

Maybe you’ve seen his facial-electrocution sequencer (words we never thought we’d write! YouTube link). He’s taken that concept and pushed it to the limit — setting up the same sequences on multiple people make them look eerily like the sacks of meat that they are, until everyone laughs at the end of the experiment and they’re all back to being human.

Anyway, if you didn’t know [Daito], check out the rest of his work. Have any other favorite tech artists that we’re missing? Drop us a line.

Large area x-ray detector

This is an x-ray detector built by [Ben Krasnow]. It’s an interesting combination of parts working with an oscilloscope. The result is an audible clicking much the same as you would hear from a Geiger counter

He’s measuring backscatter, which is the reflection of x-rays on other objects. Because the signal will be quite weak compared to waves emitted directly from an x-ray source he needed a large collector to measure them. He started by gutting an x-ray image intensifying cassette. This has a phosphor layer that glows when excited by x-rays. The idea is that the glowing phosphors do a better job of exposing film than direct x-rays can. But [Ben’s] not using film. He built that pyramid-shaped collector with the phosphor material as the base. At the apex of the pyramid he mounted a photomultiplier tube (repurposed from his scanning electron microscope) which can detect the excited points on its surface. His oscilloscope monitors the PMT, then issues a voltage spike on the calibration connector which is being fed to an audio amplifier. Don’t miss his presentation embedded after the break.

[Ben] mentions that this build is in preparation for a future project. We’d love to hear what you think he’s working on. Leave your guess in the comments section.

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Phosphorescent Laser Painting


Here’s a simple and interesting idea that increases the visual persistence of a laser scanner image. Using glow-in-the-dark paint, [Daito Manabe] prepares a surface so that the intense light of a laser leaves a trace that fades slowly over time. He’s using the idea to print monochromatic images onto the treated surface, starting with the darkest areas and ending with the lightest. The effect is quite interesting, as the image starts out seeming quite abstract but reveals its self with more detail over time.

As evidenced in the test videos, the bursts of laser scanning are matched to the fade rate of the paint. Therefore it would seem that the time taken to “write” an image is directly proportional to the desired visual persistence of the final image. We wonder, by combining clever timing and variable laser intensity could you write images much more quickly? How hard would it be to use this for moving pictures? With the ability to create your own tiny laser projector, and even an RGB scanner, there must be a lot of potential in this idea for mind-blowing visual effects. Add portability by using a phosphor-treated projection screen!

Share your ideas and check out the test videos after the break.

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BAMF2010: DIY electroluminescent displays

In this video from Maker Faire, [Jon Beck] of CLUE — the Columbia Laboratory for Unconventional Electronics — demonstrates the unexpected ease of creating custom electroluminescent (EL) displays using materials from DuPont and common t-shirt screen printing tools. Eagle-eyed reader [ithon] recognized the Hack a Day logo among the custom shapes, which escaped our notice at the time. Sorry, Jon! Very cool project, even if the setup is a bit steep. You’ll find links to materials at the project site.

If the interviewer seems especially sharp, that’s because it’s none other than [Jeri “Circuit Girl” Ellsworth], who makes transistors from scratch and designed the C64 DTV. We’re not worthy!