Saturday, December 10, 2005
When I saw that jwz wanted a "nixie clock" for Christmas, my first guess was that it might a clock with the face of some sort of woodland faerie. But it turns out that a "nixie" is an electronic numeric display element that was popular in the 50's and 60's, then disappeared quickly when LEDs came around in the 70's.
It seems that some artist-engineers have been building clocks with these things. Check out the Nixie Clock Gallery for some examples. The pictures apparently don't really do justice to the actual devices, as you can't see the cool neon glow, and don't see how the numbers move forward and backward as they change—the ten digits in a nixie are stacked one above the other.
I want one! Unfortunately, because nixies haven't been produced in volume for a couple of decades, they are hard-to-find and expensive.
One can buy already-built nixie clocks (for a few hundred dollars), but any self-respecting geeks will build their own. Maybe if I get one of those cool jobs at Google, where you spend 20% of your time on personal projects, I'll give this a try.
I think the "Lost" production designers missed out when they didn't use nixies for the 108-minute countdown clock.
[UPDATE: I couldn't help myself. I ordered one of these.]
*Ahem*, what I meant to type was that there is a local site (to me) that has some appropriately priced Nixie tubes, which makes a pleasant change.