Reboot of an old clock kit design

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Moses

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May 17, 2022, 2:17:24 PMMay 17
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Hello Everyone!

My name is Moses. This is my first post here on the new *google* neonixie-l list. I used to be on the list when it was on yahoo groups, 20 some odd years ago. I never switched over to the google group until now. Like they say, life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. I hope some of my old friends from the list are still here, and I'm sure I'll meet some interesting new ones as well.

A little background on myself. Back in the early 2000s after loosing my job. I'm not exactly sure how or why.. but I ended up traveling to the other side of the world, many times, roaming through dusty old Soviet warehouses looking for nixie tubes. Those stories can go on for days, I'll keep it short for now and tell you it was an incredible adventure!
I brought those old tubes back here to California and started selling them on ebay. I would eventually make several clock kits using the tubes I had, including a 4 digit IN-17 kit, and 4/6 digit kit with Z57xM tubes. I never made the riches that I had anticipated, but it put food on the table for while and it was fun work. I am the original owner of the domain 'neonixie.com' and you can see some of my original clock kits there.

Fast forward to now. I've decided to redesign my most popular kit, the 6 digit Z57xM kit. You can see the original here:
http://www.allspectrum.com/store/digit-red-filtered-z57xm-nixie-tube-clock-kit-p-130.html

I've kept the size of the board the same as before, but everything else is new. Some features:
- Controller choices. The board will accommodate an ESP32 or a Pi Zero. I've picked these two boards because of their popularity and the fact that they have wifi. It is so nice not having to set the clock! Wifi and NTP!
- Modern HV drivers, HV5122/H2222
- The tried and true MAX1771 for the HV supply
- Pinout for optional DHT22 temp/humidity sensor
- Pinout for optional BH1750 light level sensor to dim the tubes at night
- Prototype area for custom sensors/etc.

Pictures here:
http://neonixie.com/Z57XM6DV2/

The actual pictures are of the first prototype with an ESP32 attached. The 3D rendering is of the second prototype which I am about to order. I believe the second prototype should be very close to the production version.

Now on to the point of this post. Before I order the second prototype, I would like to know what people think of it.

Comments about the overall design or any specifics, what you like or don't like about it. Any changes or additions you would make?

There is still time for me to make changes.. so if there are any other standard pinouts (like for the light sensor/etc) that I can easily add I will. This was my first real experience with the ESP32 board and it works well in the design along with the Pi Zero which has a big following.

I appreciate your advice and comments in helping me make this a nice kit!

Thank you!

Regards,
-Moses

Dekatron42

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May 17, 2022, 2:42:11 PMMay 17
to neonixie-l
Welcome back!

I hope to hear more of your adventures!

Is it you that wrote the code for the "6 Digit Nixie Tube Clock Controller Chip"?

/Martin

Moses

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May 17, 2022, 2:53:44 PMMay 17
to neonixie-l
Hi Martin!

Thank you! 

Yes, I wrote the code for the 6 digit (and 4 digit) clock controllers. Those were actually offshoots from the original clock kits. Someone approached me to sell the controllers separately, and with a few code changes the controllers were born. Still sell a few here and there to this day.

Regards,
-Moses

Allen

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May 17, 2022, 6:16:24 PMMay 17
to neoni...@googlegroups.com
Welcome back!

I’ve got one assembled 6 digit z57xm clock and believe it or not another kit that is still in its box. 
The one I put together ran for a number of years and developed a problem. I don’t remember exactly what at this moment.

I am very interested in the new project you are working on. I’ll buy one 😊 

Allen Wisbey, W1SBY


On May 17, 2022, at 1:17 PM, Moses <mo...@neonixie.com> wrote:

Hello Everyone!
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Moses

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May 17, 2022, 6:33:34 PMMay 17
to neonixie-l
Thanks Allen!

Email me direct, I'll help you troubleshoot it or you can just mail the clock to me and I'll take a look. I still have various spare parts for repair. 

Save for a year or two of sitting in a box.. the first production, serial #1, 6 digit clock is still on my lab bench. Been running for 15+ years now I estimate. I remember we all used to talk about tube lifespan.. these ones are still the originals and are still working!

Regards,
-Moses

Dan Hollis

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May 18, 2022, 5:23:37 AMMay 18
to neonixie-l
On Tue, 17 May 2022, Moses wrote:
> Now on to the point of this post. Before I order the second prototype, I would like to know what people think of it.
>
> Comments about the overall design or any specifics, what you like or don't like about it. Any changes or additions you would make?
>
> There is still time for me to make changes.. so if there are any other standard pinouts (like for the light sensor/etc) that I can easily add I will. This was my first real experience with the
> ESP32 board and it works well in the design along with the Pi Zero which has a big following.

I'd like to run IN-18 tubes. Or millclock ZIN-70. Or dalibor's R568M. A modular design would be nice :D

adafruit feather pinout would be nice too. there's a reasonably large choice of microcontrollers and devices that use this.
https://www.adafruit.com/category/943

-Dan

martin martin

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May 18, 2022, 8:36:29 AMMay 18
to neonixie-l
I remember that clock!  - I seem to have more than 10 Nixie clocks, however I would be interested in the new version...


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Moses

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May 18, 2022, 8:54:44 PMMay 18
to neonixie-l
I'm going to make this one a single board using the Z573M/Z574M tubes, since I have enough for a batch of kits.. but yes, I have in mind something more modular later.

I'll look into the feather. I've heard of it, but never tried one. There is plenty of prototyping space.. so I'm sure it can be hand wired in.

Regards,
-Moses

Moses

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May 18, 2022, 8:57:46 PMMay 18
to neonixie-l
You obviously can't just have one!

Nicholas Stock

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May 18, 2022, 10:45:02 PMMay 18
to neoni...@googlegroups.com
Excellent stuff Moses! Will you be releasing plans/open sourcing things? Just curious.

Cheers,

Nick

Sent from my iPhone

On May 18, 2022, at 17:57, Moses <mo...@neonixie.com> wrote:

You obviously can't just have one!

Moses

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May 18, 2022, 11:13:41 PMMay 18
to neonixie-l
Nick,

I'm glad you like it! A good deal of time has gone into it so far.

I'm definitely going to open source the ESP32 code, it's written in the Arduino IDE and is turning out nicely. I'm sure people will add to it and have uses for it other then a clock.. counters, etc..
I haven't started on any code for the Pi.. but I would image python would be suitable and most universal. The Pi code should be a lot less, since all the wifi/NTP/timezone stuff is already done by the OS.

Not sure about open sourcing the PCB design. Not that any of this ever made a lot of money.. but maybe after I pay a few bills :)

Regards,
-Moses

Nicholas Stock

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May 19, 2022, 7:13:47 PMMay 19
to 'Greg P' via neonixie-l
Hi Moses, I'm always a big supporter of those developing kits etc for us enthusiasts to enjoy.

Keep us posted on progress.

Cheers,

Nick

MichaelB

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Jun 11, 2022, 12:20:36 PMJun 11
to neonixie-l
Hi Moses,

YES, Glad you're back. I do like this clock will most certainly buy one.

I built my 1st Nixie clock using your controller, based on your Schematic. Still running to this day!! http://badnixie.com/The_%22Utilitarian%22_Nixie.html

Moses

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Jun 12, 2022, 1:53:10 PMJun 12
to neonixie-l
Michael,

Thank you! And yes, I remember you coming to my actual store to pickup items! 

I've seen your clock before. There is something cool about hand-built circuits on perfboard!

Update on the clock reboot.. the latest prototype is now out to beta testers. Thanks to advice from Roger Brinkman on the list I was able to find a suitable solid polymer capacitor and now the clock has nothing to dry out!
I've ordered and received production quantities of the critical parts, which is a bit of a pain these days. All my testing is done. I'm just waiting for beta testers to get back to me. So should have these available hopefully in another month or so.

The first one with a Raspberry Pi is now running! Picture at the bottom of the page as well as some updated info on the website.

Regards,
-Moses

Moses

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Aug 1, 2022, 4:43:05 PMAug 1
to neonixie-l
Greetings!

Good news.. the first small batch run of production boards has been completed! Picture of one is here:

A request for anyone who is interested and can help..

I would like to do a small pre-sale shipment of these boards, to try and iron out any minor issues, such as missing documentation, firmware tweaks, etc and to just get more public feedback. I anticipate no further changes to the PC board. I would like another 2-3 people who can help me on this, in exchange you will get a discounted kit. Needs to be in the US and I would really like to hear back within about a week of receiving the kit. If you are interested and have time to help, please PM me. You must be experienced with soldering, nixie tubes and high voltage, and if you know the Arduino environment/ESP32, even better. All the surface mount soldering is done, other then the tubes there are only about 5 components that need to be soldered. I would consider this a fairly easy and quick kit to build.

The ESP32 controller has been working great.. but on the Pi side of things.. I've not yet tested the new production boards with the Pi Zero. The only operational Pi I have has headers soldered in a non-standard way and makes it not easily usable with the clock. If you happen to have a spare Pi Zero 2 W or a Pi Zero W and are willing to do a partial trade for a clock kit please PM me as well. I would like to get the board properly tested with a Pi on board.

Thank you and be well!

Regards,
-Moses

Moses

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7:27 PM (1 hour ago) 7:27 PM
to neonixie-l
An update! The first batch of production boards has been sent to beta testers and everything has been working well!

I expect actual production clocks to ship the week of Sep 12th. I would like to offer interested group members a discount on a pre-order. Normally $200, I've put in a discount for $160. I may end this in a couple of days, so if you want a discounted one get your order in soon. Includes tubes. Optional items are linked on the page, AC adapter, pre-programmed ESP32 , temperature sensor and lux sensor.


All the surface mount parts are soldered. You have to solder the tubes and a few though hole components, should take less then an hour for most.
The ESP32 software is working nicely and is where most of the development focus has been so far. The Pi not so much as it has been super difficult to find right now.

This has been several hundred hours of labor and I'm happy to see it finally come together. I would like to thank all those who commented, tested and supported this project. Thank you again!

Regards,
-Moses
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