Category: Hardware

Retro clock radio

January 27th, 2009 — 10:01am

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Addicted to VFDs

January 27th, 2009 — 2:02am

What is it about these outdated displays that keeps me coming back to ebay to buy more? There is a remarkable glut of cheap Vacuum Fluorescent Displays out there, of all shapes and sizes. I started a collection about 2 years ago when i started the clock project, to use as its display.

There really is nothing quite like them, in terms of brightness, color, and mystique. They are, after all vacuum-tubes, based on technology dating back nearly a century. I still don’t fully understand how to make them work, but I have been working on this in the clock prototype.

Once I get a handle on it I will likely continue adding to this collection, perhaps some of the 8843’s (pictured above) which look like some sort of exotic marital aid for the mathematically inclined.

There is something about these displays that go over and above the bare minimum of what is required for the basic function of displaying information. They are beautiful ro look at, like that old string of christmas lights you don’t have the heart to throw out, even though you know the LED lights are safer, more durable, and energy-efficient.

VFDs seem to be coming back into fashion among hobbyist types, who have managed to do all sorts of wierd things with them… Like display a Twitter feed.

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Alarm clock concept

January 26th, 2009 — 11:03pm


Alarm clocks are one of those things nearly everyone uses, and nearly everyone has consistently bad experiences with. It is for this reason that I’ve chosen this as my first hardware project. Looking at currently available alarm clocks in the marketplace, the following problems are commonplace:

  1. Difficult to set or adjust (have to press several buttons at once, hard to set in the dark)
  2. Rude awakenings (Annoying radio host, startling alarm sound, etc…)
  3. Doesn’t wake you up at all because you made a mistake (alarm gets set to PM instead of AM, you change the actual time instead of the alarm time, you forget to set the alarm to ON, or the volume is too low

The “Better Alarm Clock” would tackle these problems as follows:

  1. All settings are done with a single knob on top (rotate and press to change alarm time, current time, date, etc…)
  2. Gentle alarm sound (i.e. an internal electromechanical bell) that goes off once a minute for half an hour, so you are “lulled” awake instead of startled
  3. Alarm does not have an “on” and “off” setting. Instead, it is programmed on a weekly schedule, so it wakes you only on the days you need to wake up (e.g. monday-friday). You can disable the alarm for 1 morning, but it will automatically re-enable the alarm the following morning.

As an added bonus, the clock itself will be a beautiful piece of art, in a handcrafted wood casing and glass face.

Proposed case design above. Stay tuned for more updates while prototype is in development.

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