IV-6 VFD email counter on half-size breadboard

Posted on 11 Jan 2011 00:28


I needed the other breadboard for another project, and I'm always looking to simplify and reduce things.

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Blog tags: iv-6 tube vfd

IV-4 VFD tubes

Posted on 08 Jan 2011 05:29

Here are couple of IV-4 tubes doing a little demo. They are controlled (so far) by 2 CD4504 level shifters, driven by an atmega8. Duty cycle for each tube is 50%. +18V for the grid/segments is supplied by the usual boost converter circuit.

I have more in mind for these tubes, and will be back with an update.

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Blog tags: iv-4 tube vfd

Dutchtronix scope clock on vintage Sony Tektronix 323

Posted on 21 Dec 2010 00:43

I got this cool vintage oscilloscope. Not only is it in good shape for its age, but it's also tiny—about 8 inches wide.

My Dutchtronix scope clock looks pretty good on it too!

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Blog tags: clock oscilloscope

Magic Eye VU meter!

Posted on 13 Dec 2010 22:16

I got this cheapo Chinese 6E2 magic eye module in the mail this morning. It works great!

There is a kit that has an integrated rectifier for 220VAC power. I didn't get that one. I got the DC kit, and instead of AC input, I made an all-DC power circuit that takes 6.3V input to drive the filament, and also drives a boost converter to 200V to power the target and the triode. That way, I can make a nice little box for it that plugs into a wall wart without having to fuss with AC power and regional standards and all that.

Update: The tube really likes 300V a lot more than 200V. I'm redoing the power circuit to accommodate.

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Blog tags: 6e2 eye magic

Space Age VFD clock assembly

Posted on 17 Nov 2010 04:37


Not a lot to the circuit, just a micro (the mythical attiny4313), a crystal, some caps…


…and a 2x10 female IDC header to piggyback on the much larger display board. There is a separate power connector which powers both the VFD and the clock driver. I'll never do a PCB for this one because I only have 5 of these displays and no prospects to find any more, but if I did make one, it would be super easy.


The circuit assembly is mounted in the case.


The assembled clock in action:

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Blog tags: attiny4313 clock gu128x32-311 gu-311 ise micr noritake vfd

Yilane Systems Numitron Clock

Posted on 15 Nov 2010 22:32


I don't often build other people's kits, especially kits that don't include source code for the firmware. Most kits are too expensive and I usually think I can design something I will like better. However, the Yilane Systems YS-950 single-tube Numitron clock was sufficiently elegant and inexpensive that I couldn't resist. Availability of the kit has been intermittent, but it's worth keeping an eye on, as I understand that they will be in stock again soon.

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Blog tags: clock numitron


Posted on 12 Nov 2010 04:44

I got the retro-MICR clock working with the attiny4313! This was not an entirely straightforward process, as the '4313 is a newer part and tool support is catching up.

The attiny4313 is the new big brother of the venerable attiny2313. It features double the flash at 4K bytes and double the SRAM at 256 bytes, which is enough to make C programming a reasonable choice.

In order to get the new part working, first I had to manually update the avrdude config file (avrdude.conf). I just copied the attiny2313 entry and edited the signature and the flash memory size parameters.

Second, you have to make sure you have a clean installation of a very recent AVR toolchain. I had an older, locally-built binutils in my path and it really hosed things up. You can build and install images for the 2313, but it won't initialize memory properly if you use more than 128 bytes.

Finally, I had to rewrite some things in order to shoehorn the code written for the atmega8 into the much smaller attiny4313. But it turned out great, with no significant loss of functionality.

I'm really digging the 4313, it's a super useful chip for hobby engineering.

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Blog tags: attiny4313

VFD tube counter v0.2

Posted on 07 Nov 2010 20:28


I have a new build of the VFD tube email counter which improves several aspects of the original:

  • replaced atmega8 microcontroller with smaller attiny2313
  • replaced IRF730 power mosfet with smaller IRFD110
  • replaced $20 FTDI USB-serial cable with $2 PL2303 cable
  • replaced boring old white breadboard with fancy new transparent breadboard
  • replaced ugly breadboard wires with shiny magwire

However, by far the biggest change is the elimination of 7 transistors. The first design used the conventional high-side switch arrangement of a level-shifting NPN to switch a PNP driving each segment anode, but it bothered me that Jon Stanley was able to get his single-tube clock working without the level-shifting NPNs. Now, Jon's clock is operating at a lower voltage than mine, and he's using a PIC instead of an AVR, so I wasn't sure if I could make that work. It seems that compensating for the higher voltage with a bigger base resistor works just fine so far.

If it continues to work well, I'll put it on a circuit board and make a nice aluminum case for it, like this one.

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Blog tags: iv-6 vfd

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