I’m tending towards collecting some anachronistic stuff. That can be a problem, but a nice one. One of these things I am still fascinated are nixie tubes. They are not just a nice way to keep time or indicate stuff…They represent for a kind dedication to technology. Just imagine the effort and costs necessary in order to produce them.
Basically they consist of a set of numerals or symbols made of thin metal (serving as cathodes), which are stacked in one dimension and surrounded by a metal mesh (being the anode). The numerals are fitted within a tube filled with gas such as neon. All in all there must have been an expensive and critical processing chain with a fragile product in the end. But anyway, they had their time and not only measurement equipment and radios were equipped with them but also outdoor stuff. I recently saw them as an indicator for the amount of fuel filled up at a petrol station in France…
The most common application today is probably clocks. You`ll find them all over ebay as kits and complete units. But for me the most beautiful and sophisticated one is the wrist watch made by David Forbes @ Cathode Corner. Not only old Woz has one, but I have one as well since nearly 20 months now.
It has proven to be very robust, fashionable and just cool. The flash of the nixies on my wrist still amazes me from day to day. Sometimes I just take a look just for the tubes and not to get the time.
Another nice incarnation of tube indicators are so called magic eyes.
They were once used as indicators for radio tuners. In my modern audio setup I have one intergrated as a VU meter to display both of the stereo channels. I got a kit of Jürgen Grau (Mr. Nixie). The kit contains all necessary parts and a partly assembled pcb. Basically one has only solder the THT components to the board and assemble the housing. All in all the kit is high quality and very, very easy to build up. In the end you’ll get a great, geeky gadget which is suitable for almost every living room…
You’ll better go and get your nixies today 😉 !!!