NIXIE I NIXIE clock using six ZM1030 tubes

Posted on Feb 6, 2014

We mounted one of them on a wooden sigar box and connected the anode via a large series resistance to the live wire of the 220V mains! Just by touching one of the cathodes it was possible to make the numbers glow.I think that this was the beginning of my life long fascination for these misteriously glowing tubes. They are in one word beautifull! One

NIXIE I NIXIE clock using six ZM1030 tubes
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of the things that makes them so fascinating is that they are so visably a monument of a time when a revolution in electronics was taking place. On one hand they were obviously a product from the radio tube area, and on the other hand they were used to display the results from the children of the revolution, digital ICs. To me, an equally fascinating component is the 74141 NIXIE driver. What a curious component it is, designed to interface the 5V TTL world with the high voltage NIXIE tubes. Of course I could not understand everything that was in them. One of these magazines contained a description of a poor man`s NIXIE clock (right picture) which used a mechanical clock to switch the cathodes of the tubes [1]. At that time I had no clue about the working of digital ICs (I was twelve), but this was something I could understand. Over the years I built up a small collection of NIXIE tubes, always having in mind that one day I would build my own NIXIE clock. A few years ago a shared my room at work with Jacco van der Hoeven. Although Jacco is a mechanic by profession, he also likes to experiment with electronics in his spare time and therefor could understand my fascination for these glowing tubes. Somewhere in 2003 the NIXIE clock fever rose to an alarming level when I run into a bunch (50!) of old 74141 NIXIE driver ICs that were about to be thrown away together with a whole chest full of obsolete TTL ICs. There were at the...

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