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Electronics Retro Computing

Retro style nixie-tube clock powered by a 6502 microprocessor

Nixie tubes
Combining the orange glow of nixie tubes with an old-style microprocessor leads to this neat clock.

The 6502 stands tall in many a nerd’s memory. It powered the venerable Commodore 64, the Apple II, and countless other personal computers and gadgets from the wonder years of computing. It’s not often used these days due to the fact that many microcontrollers are easier to develop with and offer equal or better power.

However, in a nod towards the good ole’ days, Ryan Brooks has combined the retro 6502 microprocessor with an even older technology: nixie tubes.

Nixie tubes are a remnant from the very early days of digital readouts. They are a vacuum tube which has the numbers 0 through 9 built-in. By energizing the various sections of the tube, you can cause the numbers to emit their characteristic orange glow. It’s very similar to the orange glow you may have seen looking into the back of a TV, especially the older ones. OK – maybe it’s just total nerds like me who spent their childhoods peering into the backs of TVs wondering how they work 😉

Anyway, this project is pretty cool both in the appearance and in the concept of combining two classic elements of electronic history into one project. There are handfuls of other nixie-tube clocks out there, but very few that strive to be more than a nifty looking clock like Ryan’s.

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