Few people have heard of it, yet many consider John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 to be the first commercial personal computer.

Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

Building A Decatron Clock

Decatron Clock

E. Barbour writes, "Former Philips engineer Ronald Dekker is famous for his website full of unusual construction projects. He now has built a digital clock that uses Dekatron (or decatron) tubes as displays."

A fully lit Decatron tubeDecatrons feature a ring of cathodes driven by a control voltage. They were first introduced in 1950, and this is the first I've heard of them.

They're the forefather of Nixie tubes, which usually contain ten cathodes in the shape of the numbers 0 through 9, and a wire mesh anode. When electricity is passed between one of the cathodes and the anode, the corresponding number shines with an endearing orangey-red glow. In contrast, the decatron is only capable of producing an array of glowing dots.

Dekker decided to build a decatron clock controlled by a modern PIC microcontroller.

He explains, "Surfing the web, the most popular thing to make with a decatron seems to be a spinner. Looking at these spinners I thought it would be a nice idea to make a clock with six (or perhaps even seven) decatrons in a row, with the decatrons showing all kinds of display effects. Instead of simply incrementing the time every new second, it would be great to have a display of forward- and backward-spinning digits, slowly rolling-out to the new time, a little bit like the reels of a slot machine."

The circuit and software is now complete, and the only thing remaining is the case. Dekker has decided to use a mirror mounted at a 45 degree angle to allow reading the digits while the tubes are mounted in a vertical position. The final result should be a unique modern timepiece that brilliantly integrates forgotten technology from the 1950s.

Decatron Clock Project


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