Classic Rev6 with only 4 tubes

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1 year 3 months ago #9762 by kylesolid
I just purchased a Classic Rev6 board with WiFi time provider. I have a cheap 4 tube clock that keeps horrible time. My plan is to just add the Arduino board in the case and solder up to the existing board to drive the 4 tubes.

My thought was that simply not soldering on any LEDs or "Seconds" and "Tens of seconds" tubes would work just fine. Obviously, I understand that I wouldn't be able to do some of the settings that feed back via those tubes. Is there anything else that I need to do, or will this just work?

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1 year 3 months ago #9765 by Ty_Eeberfest
I don't see any big problems with what you want to do. As far as "soldering up to the existing board" you're on your own since I know nothing about your existing board! As long as you understand what's going on on both boards and can figure out the interconnections it should be fine.

As you said, setting features won't be usable but that doesn't really matter because once the WiFi module is installed you can access all setting using your phone or PC. Date display should be okay if you pick a date format (thru WiFi module) that puts the year in the seconds position (I don't think you need the clock to tell you what year it is - heh). The Scroll In - Scramble Out effect might not look real good on only 4 digits but you can always turn that off. Can't think of anything else.

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

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1 year 3 months ago #9767 by kylesolid
Thanks for your reply. The existing board and case (a gift from ThinkGeek) is really well made, but keeps horrific time.. Funny that a digital watch from a cereal box can keep time perfectly fine, but the ThinkGeek Nixie Clock loses minutes every week....

As far as interconnections go, I figured i'd just trace where the 10 cathodes and 4 anodes connect to a chip, and solder to those points. I'm no electrical engineer, but I can follow directions and work a multimeter well enough...

I was worried about not having a proper "Load" by having only 4 tubes. I saw in the construction manual that you may see ghosting during normal construction while connecting tubes and testing due to too light of a load.

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1 year 3 months ago #9768 by Ty_Eeberfest
Connecting to the old board: I strongly recommend you remove parts or cut traces or whatever you need to do on that old board to completely isolate the tubes from the rest of the old circuitry! If you just stab on wires you'll "back feed" stuff on the old board and may well damage both boards!

Loading: Once you complete assembly of the kit and have it connected to the tubes the firmware will make you run "HV Calibration". This is not screamingly obvious in the instructions. The clock will come up in the "counting" mode (where you saw the note about ghosting). When the display shows all 8s you push the button and it goes into a calibration routine. After a minute or two it will finish calibrating, the HV generator will now be "matched" to the load, and the clock will operate normally from then on. The HV generator is definitely capable of calibrating itself to work with 4 tubes, in fact there is a 4 tube version of one of the older revs of Classic kits, it uses the same HV circuitry and code, and it works fine.

Rant: As for other clocks losing time... it seems like every electronic hobby company on the 'net wants to offer a Nixie clock and the designs range from great to garbage. One place they like to cheap out is on the external timing components (crystal or resonator, loading caps, etc.) and as a result the clocks keep poor time. Good timing components cost a bit of money, cheap ones don't work well. With the WiFi module (or GPS module on other brands of kits) the timing components don't matter so much as long as the CPU frequency is pretty close to right.

I can only assume those cereal box watches are designed by "watch people" who know that the primary purpose of a time piece is to.... keep good time! They know where to cut corners and where not to. They also have economy of scale working for them: they probably buy parts a million at a time. so they can get good parts for the same price a small buyer pays for crap.

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

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1 year 3 months ago #9769 by Ty_Eeberfest
Let me clarify something... the Classic Rev. 4 (a 6 digit clock) has been sold in a 4 digit version. It is the exact same board and parts as as the regular 6 digit Classic Rev. 4. The only difference is you don't install the parts for the 1-Sec and 10-Sec anodes. The firmware is different but only in ways that fix the setting difficulties that arise from having only 4 tubes. HV generation is the same.

To my knowledge there is no 4 digit firmware for the Classic Rev. 6 yet. And no, Classic Rev. 4 4 digit firmware won't work on a Rev. 6 board - sorry!

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

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1 year 3 months ago #9770 by Ian
Replied by Ian on topic Classic Rev6 with only 4 tubes
So, the 4 Digit code is finished, and a couple of guys on the board here have built one. It works great, I never had the wish to do 4-Digit code until I had one, and now I see the point of it.

But that is the classic Rev4, and Ty's right, at the moment there is no equivalent for Rev5 or Rev6, but that should not be a big deal to change.

If you have a programmer for the 3328P-PU, I can provide a firmware image to upload onto it. If you have an Arduino UNO with the chip on it, that can also be abused as a programmer for the clock chip.

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