Kickstarting more gorgeous Soviet deadstock Nixie Tube clocks

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“no soldering or assembly needed” <-- awww, you just took half the fun out of the thing!


Well…you could take it apart and put it in a briefcase-shaped pencil box…



Considering I have at least two pcbs and sets of Nixie tubes unassembled, I should stay away from this.



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Those look pretty fun, but I was really hoping to see @nixiebunny comment on this.


They are Nixie clocks, all right. I got out of that business ten years ago, when it got crowded. This design does validate my understanding of steampunk as the opposite of utility. I have no idea what the guitar jack plates sprouting armored cable are supposed to represent. It sure ain’t steam era.


It looks like Design Nonsense Era to me.


I don’t geht the “soviet” part either.

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The “nationality” of the parts. Made in the good ol’ Soviet Union.
Some things made there were surprisingly non-sucking. E.g. vacuum tubes and vacuum cleaners.


I’ve wanted a Nixie clock for quite some time and could never justify buying one.

I don’t want these. They’re ridiculous.


I sort of like the design for the first one pictured in the BB post, but the other two look rather garish.

Related but unrelated question. What’s the expected lifespan of a nixie tube?

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A Nixie tube will last for 5 to 15 years of continuous use if it’s the long-life version, made with a touch of mercury. The early designs were rather short-lived: a few months. The glass darkens over time when run at higher than average current, caused by sputtering of cathode metal onto the glass.


I’ve seen some really classy looking ones but this batch is… not appealing. And you hardly have to do anything to make them look nice.

People can happily shell out big money for some spectacularly ugly things. Apple comes to mind.

Design just about anything and you have a decent chance to find somebody who likes it.

Even today it seems like the highest quality new build vacuum tubes are coming out of former eastern bloc countries.

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Ever since the first time I saw Nixie tubes in THX-1138 I have been in love with them as a number display. I’ve just been too intimidated by the cost and voltage requirements to ever take the plunge and make a project out of them.

The cost is a problem.

The voltage, not so. A boost converter is fairly easy to make; you can start with a MC34063 chip, or even a 555 with a transistor will do. I made a (lower power, but would scale) 400V boost converter for a Geiger tube that runs from a Li-ion cells, built from a LM2903 (or LM393?) op-amp.

The 160-or-so volts needed for Nixies isn’t that much. Gives an unpleasant kick, but the boost converters are low-power and the output capacitors don’t store that much energy. The danger starts from 10 joules, regardless of voltage (though the voltage is a requirement to push the current through you) - a static electricity spark from a carpet can have tens of kilovolts and still is nothing but slightly unpleasant. (Unless you’re in a flammable atmosphere; then you’re in for some hot action.)

At 160 volts, 10 joules equals about 780 microfarads. You’re likely to be some two or three orders of magnitude lower with a small Nixie PSU.

So, go for the Nixies and have fun. It starts getting more dangerous when you graduate to photoflash circuitry, so learn on Nixies.

And if Nixies are too expensive to start with, you can have some rudimentary fun with neon bulbs - these are in effect a “one pixel” Nixie.

I haven’t done nixies yet, but I very clearly remember my first few jolts from that camera flash I was working on as a kid.

The cap in there was huge, too. Left scorch marks on my hands.

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I can’t think of a single ugly thing Apple has made in the last decade.