Gifts from Old Saint Nixie

The Maestro

Long ago, before the days of LEDs, LCDs and vacuum fluroescent displays there was briefly a display technology known as the Nixie tube.  A “backronym” standing for (N)umeric (I)ndicator e(X)perimental,  these glow discharge tubes (think fluoresent signs) could display numbers with certain models displaying a limit set of symbols, too.  The former Soviet Union produced and used these quite a bit in things like calculators and scientific equipment.

In more recent years there has been a revival of the Nixie Tube as there are tons of them still sitting in warehouses.  In many cases they are being used in clocks.

I decided it would be be fun to build some of these, both for myself and Gemma but also as Xmas gifts for others.

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My Fruitytode — adapted from Nematoduino

I recently read about Nathan Griffith’s Nematoduino, a full brain simulation (all 302 neurons!) of a nematode on Arduino, with great fascination. I thought it was soooooo cool and immediately wanted one of my own. The source code was released, but unfortunately no hardware diagrams came along with the code. I read through the code and determined that H-bridges were needed — I did not have these on-hand. I did, however, have an Adafruit Motor Shield. I decided to adapt Nematoduino for my hardware and I was successful with very little effort.

It was actually very easy to adapt. The author is setting motor speed using 8 bit resolution, the same as an Adafruit Motor Shield would. I changed his motor commands slightly to signal the motor shield in terms of speed and direction.  I made some minor pin selection changes, making pin 13 the indicator pin for the ping sensor.  I also disabled the stop/start push-button switch out of convenience but this easily re-enabled.

I was then able to load up my sketch and enjoy my nematode!

My build:
– Arduino Leonardo (32u4) — Uno should also work
Adafruit Motor Shield
Mini 2WD motor chassis with motors
– 1x HC-SR04 ping sensor
4x AA battery pack (for motors)

My circuit diagram from Fritzing:


The sketch for my build can be obtained here.

My home-made Adafruit-inspired clock



My wife was recently away traveling and I decided that I wanted a project to keep me busy and out of trouble in her absence.   I determined that I would build her a custom clock while she was gone.   I began sketching out my design and found some great parts on Adafruit for my project.

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My NetApp Filer Clock


My latest creation came out of a bit of nostalgia.  I used to work for NetApp, a major player in the data storage industry.  During my time there, I used a FAS3020, purchased on eBay, as a learning tool.  I’ve since gotten rid of the filer itself but could not bear to part with the bezel.  It was a souvenir of sorts.

I recently uncovered the bezel in my parts closet and realized that a common 16×2 LCD screen fit the bezel perfectly.  I have many an Arduino on-hand and I also had a DS1307 I2C-based real-time clock.  A short while later, I had it up and going!


The parts used include:
– Arduino Uno microcontroller
– Generic DS1307 I2C Real-time clock (search eBay or Adafruit)
Adafruit RGB LCD shield kit

I am cleaning-up the code a bit and will then post it on Github.

My new Adafruit-inspired Robot

I have long been a fan of Adafruit.   They offer some really amazing kits, complete with specs, schematics, examples and all kinds of wonderful code and instructions for the tinkering.   I’ve had many hours of fun building and tweaking projects consisting largely of their components.

I have built robots in the past but they had turned out to be more cumbersome than expected.  They were heavy and buggy.  A lot of this was due to designs that were overkill (a bit too ambitious).  Since that time I’ve wanted to build something a bit more lean, simple and fun to operate.


I then stumbled across this $24.95 kit on Adafruit’s site and I couldn’t resist.

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