Nixie FM radio

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1 year 3 months ago #7586 by lilgeek1966
Has anyone built a nixie radio that uses the tubes to display the frequency? I need to build something similar for a steampunk themed escape room.

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1 year 3 months ago #7587 by Ty_Eeberfest
I remember there was some discussion about the FM Nixie Radio idea here a few years ago. I'm not aware of it leading to anyone actually making one though. I know I've thought about it but never gotten around to doing it.

Are you thinking of building the radio and everything from scratch? Or starting with the guts out of a working FM receiver and modifying, repackaging, etc.?

One idea I had was to get an old FM receiver or car radio with LED(?) digital display- one that is old enough to have many individual ICs instead of one magic module handling all display functions. Then start hacking away with a scope or logic probe to find a place to pick off the display info as maybe BCD (between chips) or even 7-segment decoded (between chips & displays). Once a pick-off point is found, feed it into discrete logic or a microcontroller to "decode and re-code" into what you need to drive the tubes. It might not be so easy to find a suitable receiver to do this with though... so it's all thinking out loud speculation here...

Of course you could always design and build a frequency counter with Nixie display, pick off the signal from the local oscillator if the radio, apply scaling and offset as needed, etc. but damn that sounds like doing it the hard way!

Look into it later when the dust is clearing off the crater.

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1 year 3 months ago - 1 year 3 months ago #7590 by Ian
I see another option, less fun than hacking an old unit, but if you need to get something done in a hurry it could be a good way to go.

There are I2C controlled FM receiver chips out there, a quick search turned up this Instructables mini project:

www.instructables.com/id/Arduino-Digital-FM-Radio-TEA5767/

My latest series of clocks (coming soon) have an open I2C interface and can display arbitrary values which you send to the clock over the I2C, including a floating decimal point. All you would need to do it to have a controller that sets the frequency, and each time there's an update, send the new frequency to the clock unit.
Last Edit: 1 year 3 months ago by Ian. Reason: typo

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1 year 3 months ago #7591 by vladco
I would go with and arduino based clock kit preferably, IN12B tubes because they have a decimal point to which you'll add an FM radio module via I2C (just search FM radio arduino on web) - than rewrite the software to control the FM radio and display the frequency, add some buttons to allow for frequency change and your done.

But it highly depends on your programming/electronics skills

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1 year 3 months ago #7592 by Ty_Eeberfest
Well, Ian and Vlad... I hadn't even thought of that method even though I've played a (very) little bit with one of those radio-on-a-chip devices a few years ago. My mind runs toward the Olde Skool methods and I have mixed feelings about using Arduinos and i2c and other modern stuff with Nixies.

But then, I use non-Arduino Atmel 328s and Supertex HV drivers in my clock designs so I guess I'm not as Olde Skool as I like to pretend I am.

I agree that Ardino + i2c is the quickest and probably smallest solution and it's pretty much guaranteed to work without huge amounts of screwing around. Sometimes I enjoy the screwing though :evil:

Look into it later when the dust is clearing off the crater.

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1 year 3 months ago - 1 year 3 months ago #7594 by vladco
@Ty probably different generations, and im an not saying it in a bad way, I imagine 10-15 years ago it was pretty hard/expensive to find one chip which did FM receiving or for that matter any exotic IC which can be bought now for pennies from our good friends in china so you needed to get arround with what you could find, don't get me wrong i love screwing around, but sometimes you just need to get things done quick

one a totally unrelated note, post moderation will that go away after i specific number of post or is permanently enabled ? never mind its went away
Last Edit: 1 year 3 months ago by vladco.

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1 year 3 months ago #7595 by Ian
It goes away after 5 posts... The things we have to do to have nice things on a forum... Sorry for that.

On the subject of Olde Schule, if you're even here, you're a bit old school. Who would choose difficult, fragile, expensive Nixies over cheap, robust OLED? You'd have to be crazy... ;)

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1 year 3 months ago #7597 by Ty_Eeberfest
Glad I'm a bit crazy actually... :laugh:

And Vlad, you're quite right about generation bias. To give a hint at my age I'll just mention that the first time I made a digital clock it was based on the MM5314 at a time when the MM53xx family was new and exciting. We couldn't quite comprehend how they could put so much functionality into so small (28-pin wide body DIP lol) a package.
MM53xx Family Data Sheet

Oh, and I also learned BASIC programming on an ASR-33 Teletype terminal running at 110 baud (that is not a typo) and did some ALGOL stuff for Burroughs 6700 on punched cards. My how times have changed, huh??

Look into it later when the dust is clearing off the crater.

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1 year 3 months ago #7599 by lilgeek1966
Okay.... I am amending my advice request. After much deliberation, what I think I need to make is a MP3 player that displays the MP3 title on the Nixie tubes, knowing that the titles would all be a 4 digit string. If I can design that, I would accomplish my goal.

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1 year 3 months ago #7601 by Ty_Eeberfest
In that case I guess I'd start with an Arduino. If you just do a web search for Arduino MP3 Player you'll see there are numerous open source solutions already made and free for the taking. Obviously using one of those solutions would simplify your project substantially.

Many open source solutions for driving Nixies from an Arduino are also available - both code and schematics.

So... that leaves you only a few things to work out, namely getting and processing the ID3 data from the MP3 files (might already be done in the Arduino MP3 player code) and passing it to your tubes. Seems like that would be pretty easy for anyone with a not of Arduino programming experience.

Unless of course you have the urge to write an Arduino MP3 player from scratch.............

Look into it later when the dust is clearing off the crater.

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