Happy New Year! Looking back, 2015 was a superb year, full of fun and fancy. And just in case you thought last year’s creative juices were exhausted by the fabulous Oscilloblock, rest assured that there was an even crazier creation – the 2015 luxury edition CopperClock!
The unusual facade for this unit was built to order by a Canadian craftsman specializing in hand-hammered and silver-soldered copper weather vanes. If you enjoy metal art, you will certainly approve of this!
But… you may have read my previous articles and know that three-inch Oscilloclock models are typically powered by 2.1kV high voltage power supplies. Isn’t there any danger in using a metal case?
Never fear! The internals are fully encapsulated in a beautiful cast acrylic case, providing full insulation and utmost safety.
Breaking from tradition, I’ll refrain from describing other features of this unit (such as the selection of a round-faced CRT to give it character), and instead just post a few more photos of the clock ‘in situ’. Enjoy!
The 2015 CopperClock atop a beautiful Philips Radioplayer. What a match!
… or perhaps atop a vintage Estey pump organ?
… perhaps it looks best on a 1920’s Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph!
Like what you see?
This exquisite specimen is currently available to someone with a metallurgical and chronometric disadvantage. Visit the Availability page for more information, and of course see the Gallery for other unique creations!
Fresh off the press – some photos of the Oscilloblock – Summer Dusk edition in its new home! The owner is clearly a huge Nixie tube and neon aficionado, but this is his very first CRT clock. What a fitting environment!
Ahh, summer – it’s well and truly over. But one person in the world is able to enjoy the warm, cheery feeling of summer every single day: the proud new owner of this beautiful Oscilloblock – Summer Dusk edition!
Truly the best thing to come out of the lab this summer – the Oscilloblock!
This playful timepiece features a Lego art case, painstakingly designed and constructed by Oscilloclock lab’s junior technician from a whopping 548 brand-new Lego parts sourced from around the globe. No expenses spared! Even the control knob is actually a Lego Technics gear. And just in case the owner wanted to take it apart and build it all over again, we included a 140-step Lego building guide in the package. Good luck!
The Oscilloblock features a good-looking 1970’s 3-inch (75mm) flat-faced CRT from Toshiba, with the iconic scripted logo in great condition on the base. At the rear is a scarce brown bakelite CRT socket, which are very hard to find complete with the rear insulating cap! The harness consists of tough 3kV tolerant silicone-sheathed cabling, shielded over most of its length to reduce electromagnetic interference.
Wow, these vintage bakelite CRT sockets are hard to find!
No doubts about authenticity!
One design goal was to have more than 90% of the CRT’s surface area completely exposed for viewing and touching, as opposed to encasing it in acrylic. Borne from this was a tremendous achievement for 2015: a new CRT ring support structure!
Acrylic rings with super-tiny pocket holes… cast and machined in Japan!
The internals of the clock are equally exquisite. A set of latest-revision Oscilloclock control, deflection and power boards drive the CRT at 2.1kV, providing a crystal-clear, ultra-bright trace. And of couse, every figure and character is generated using silky-smooth Circle Graphics.
The CRT assembly simply lifts away for showing off the internals! But DON’T TOUCH…
Latest-revision boards. 250+ components. All hand-mounted!
On-board GPS for accurate timing – anywhere in the world!
There is only one control. It’s intuitive. It’s fun. It’s simple! Visit my YouTube channel to see various Oscilloclocks in operation.
But not everything is obvious, and Oscilloclocks all ship with an Operation Guide, with content specific to each and every unique unit. Here’s a snippet from the Oscilloblock’s guide:
No Oscilloclock model ships without a decent Operation Guide!
Like what you see?
There’s really no limit to what can be done with a CRT and an idea! It was my son’s idea to use Lego, and he is proud to know there is nothing in the world quite like this Oscilloblock. See the Gallery for other equally unique creations.
Fortunately, I didn’t need to guess any further. As I was once an avid flight simulator enthusiast, I quickly hit upon the correct meaning: Head-Up Display. This is a mechanism that overlays instrumentation or map data onto the view looking forward from the cockpit, so that the pilot doesn’t have to look down to see this information.
Wikipedia has a great introduction to HUDs and their history, but Mike’s Flight Deck has the definitive tome for flight simulator enthusiasts who want to actually build an HUD. According to Mike, the system employs various optical paraphernalia, but at the heart of the mechanism is what lies closest to my own heart – a CRT Display!
An Oscilloclock 3-inch X-Y-Z display unit, optimized for use in an HUD
I believe in reincarnation. Every vintage device sporting a CRT deserves to live again, to be loved again, to lift someone’s spirits again. And in 2014, this beautiful Toshiba ST-1248D received its chance, born again as a suave Oscilloclock!
Manufactured sometime in the mid to late 1950’s, the ST-1248D was extremely well-designed and assembled, compared to other compact models available on the domestic Japanese market at that time. The engineers considered both function and form – latched panels on the side and back, delicately laced wiring, and a relatively spacious interior conducive to heat removal and circuit reliability. But the delightful brass bezel is what really makes this one of the most beautiful Oscilloclock conversions ever.
Fresh from Oscilloclock Labs – a new VectorClock creation, commissioned for the office of a world-famous film and television director:
Tek 520 VectorClock – S/N 002 (image published with permission of the owner)
This unit is based on an original Tektronix 520 vectorscope, which is the predecessor of the 520A that was used in the first VectorClock, described here. This custom conversion employs several key enhancements, and performance has never been better!
Yes, you’ve all thrown away your lunky old CRT monitors, in favour of sleek ultra-thin LCD displays. And, you thought you’d never see another one again…
But this CRT display has a twist! It’s round. It’s small at just 3 inches diameter. And it’s awfully cute.
Last year, I was approached by a dedicated flight simulation enthusiast, who needed a radar indicator to use in a fighter cockpit replica. The indicator should employ a CRT, for the most realistic look. Could Oscilloclock design and construct such a display?
It didn’t take much convincing! Diverging only temporarily from building clocks, I took up the challenge to create my first raster-scan CRT display unit. In the ensuing months, difficulties sprang forth from every direction in the project, but ultimately I was able to avoid a diraster (sic) and deliver a functional assembly:
The key component of this setup is a new prototype VGA Board that converts a VGA signal into analogue X and Y outputs. Both analogue intensity and binary blanking outputs are provided.
Oscilloclock VGA Board prototype
The X and Y outputs drive an Oscilloclock Deflection Board, while the binary blanking output drives the blanking amplifier in a CRT Board.
Deflection Board – modified for ultra-linear HV output
CRT Board – modified for improved frequency response
Blanking isolation, heater, and HV supplies are provided by a Power Board.
Power Board – with improved optocoupler
It all looks so easy! But noooo. Astute readers will recall from other posts that every Oscilloclock project involves sleepless slumbers, horrific hair-pulling, and forgotten family members. Let’s see what caused me grief this time…
Recently, I’ve seen quite a few search hits and even an enquiry regarding the 400-LED dual-trace oscilloscope that I briefly mentioned on my History page. With renewed enthusiasm therefore, let’s take a trip down history lane and see what I was doing back in 1990!
A compact dual-trace 1MHz DC scope – what more could a high school kid want?
Television broadcasting has switched from analog to digital – and if you’ve got a nice HD TV, you’ll be loving it!
But with that transition came the death of an entire breed of equipment – the Vectorscope.
Just to be clear, these are not monitors for playing ancient video games using vector graphics!! No, the Vectorscope is (was) used to give a delightful view of the ‘vectors’ inside an NTSC or PAL video signal, describing the color components of the signal.
If you were lucky enough to be a TV broadcast technician, you’d use your Vectorscope all the time to check your vectors’ amplitudes and phase. You would even give your vectors names like ‘Jack’ and ‘Jill’, and check up on their relationships daily, just as any responsible guardian would!
But above all, you would marvel every single day at the beautiful hardware you were using, and the complex circuitry involved. Take a look at my Tektronix 526 Vectorscope, which has oodles of delicious tubes to heat my shop on a nice winter’s day:
Well, it all went digital and there is no longer any need for analog color signal analysis. But dry your tears… There is something even better:
Announcing the Tek 520A VectorClock
This lovely Oscilloclock reincarnation of a Tektronix 520A, sold at Maker Faire Tokyo 2013, allows its new owner to forever relive the magic of NTSC, PAL and SECAM analog color.
Tektronix 520A VectorClock – brilliant blend of the old and new!
The Tektronix 520A has a stunning built-in array of lights for illuminating the CRT graticules. By simply removing the bezel and external graticule, the Tek 520A morphs into a deliciously moody timepiece!
Normally, I shun CRTs with built-in graticules. Their lines detract dreadfully from an Oscilloclock image. But here! The Tek 520A’s internal vectorscope graticule is round! What better way to accentuate a Circle Graphics driven display?
The Tek 520A is solid-state. It can be left on 24 hours a day and not fail for many years. This makes it a perfect match for my Maximum Re-use + Minimum Invasion policy: nearly all existing circuits – HV power supply, deflection amplifiers, blanking – are put to use, with just a few (reversible) tweaks.
The Oscilloclock Power Board is mounted neatly next to its own dedicated low voltage supply. A small relay board can be seen below, for controlling the Tek’s main power unit. All cabling is HV-tolerant and neatly fastened with high-temperature cable ties.
Of the more interesting reversible ‘tweaks’ needed for this retrofit, here we see a delightful little trimpot pretending to be a transistor. Quite an act, I would say!
Like what you see?
If you love big, looming Vectorscopes and need to have one put to good use in your living room, Contact me. And be sure to subscribe from the front page, to track all the other exotic experiments and unique timepieces targeted for 2014!
Credits to [Quinn] in Canada, for providing the initial inspiration for the Tek 520A VectorClock project!