Screens & Things

Recently I had an enquiry from [Frank], who had just begun a life-long love affair with scope clocks by purchasing one on eBay. The clock was great – but he felt that the two available screens (simple analogue and digital clock faces) lacked a certain oomph.

He then stumbled across Oscilloclock.com, and in his smitten state immediately reached out with his number one question: just what screens are available on an Oscilloclock?

Well, let me save Frank’s time trawling through years of blog posts. Right here in one place are most of the Oscilloclock screens and features created to date.

Enjoy the show!

Standard Time Screens

These stock-standard analogue and digital time screens may be quite simple, but they do evoke the ‘retro’ look that most people appreciate.

And you can flip a menu setting to display days, months, years in Japanese:

There are also some ‘random’ screens that add in a bit of dynamic visual entertainment:

  • Random number screen
  • Random letter sequence screen
  • Random four letter word screen (clean words only, by default!)
  • Random phrase screen (the phrase list is typically customized to a theme)

And of course the mesmerizing Timedrops screen:

Themed Screens and Features

… These themed features were developed more recently, and can be added for a small fee to help cover development costs!

Astroclock (Sidereal Time)

External XY input

OscilloTerm (serial terminal)

Oscilloblock (lego)

Metropolis

Aftershock Clock (Earthquake display)

Unbirthday Clock

War Games

Logo screens

Over the years many folks have requested that I render custom logos in Circle Graphics. Here are some examples:

“Seasonal Treats”

Up next are some fun, mildly interactive animation features. Not exactly screens per se, these animations pop up after a predefined period of inactivity – but only during certain months of the year. Can you guess which months?

Boo!
Santa in your Clock!

Menu screens

There are far too many configuration menu and test screens to present here. Fiddle to your heart’s content!



Q. How are screens switched?

Screens are switched simply by rotating the control knob in one direction or other.

There is also a configurable auto-switch feature; the screen is changed every 90 seconds in a predefined order (with the exception of some animation screens). The display time is configurable, and the auto-switch feature can also be turned off for those who prefer to switch screens manually.

Q. How are screens selected & configured?

Customers can request screens to include and/or specify the switching order. The configuration is done here in the lab before clocks are delivered.

Oscilloclock also provides a firmware upgrade kit, which allows the customer to upload a revised version of the firmware into the clock themselves. Using this, updates to screens and other features can be uploaded without shipping the clock back to the lab.

Q. What is the process for rendering a custom screen or logo?

We typically prepare a mock-up based on the customer’s description, sketch, or image file. This is tweaked as needed until the screen looks just right to the customer.



Like what you see? Contact me!

VectorClock Reloaded!

Aside

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)

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!

Be sure to check out videos on my YouTube channel.

Making the Heathkit Oscilloclock

Last month’s post about the Heathkit Oscilloclock generated tremendous interest, and I’ve heard from several folks keen to try their hand at preserving their own beloved instruments.

… so let’s take a brief look at what was involved in the Heathkit OR-1 conversion!

Heathkit Oscilloclock - inside

Approaches to conversion…

There are many approaches to retrofitting a scope into an Oscilloclock, but it really boils down to how much of the original circuit you want to re-use, vs. what you will bypass with Oscilloclock boards.

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A Heathkit Oscilloclock!

Anyone familiar with Heathkit®?

From 1947 to 1992, the U.S. based Heath Company produced electronic kits for everything you can imagine: radios, TVs, computers, robots, ham gear, and electronic test equipment. Yes, you guessed it – they also produced kits for oscilloscopes!

My Grandpa purchased one such scope, the Heathkit OR-1, around 1960. He wanted to kick off a new career in electronics repair, and the ‘build-your-own-equipment’ approach to training was in full bloom at the time. Also, since this was before the era of cheap overseas manufacturing, he could buy a Heathkit far cheaper than an assembled scope.

Heathkit OR-1 manual - a work of art

Heathkit OR-1 manual – a work of art

Unfortunately, Grandpa’s electronics career never really took off. But decades later, he introduced me to his gorgeous oscilloscope, and boy – did that kick MY career off! Much later, the OR-1 came to live with me. (You can read a bit more about my affinity for this scope in my History page.)

The problem is, I have too many oscilloscopes. But I don’t have enough Oscilloclocks. What more fitting way to keep Grandpa’s legacy alive, than to retrofit his Heathkit?

Heathkit OR-1 Oscilloclock

Heathkit Oscilloclock - Splash and Clock

Special features

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Font & Figure Creator!

Those of you who own, or are building, an Oscilloclock may have realized how tedious it is to create a new character or drawing. My little Casper (October, Seasonal Treats post) required a grueling 5 hours to get him looking good!

Casper - as drawn by my son (L) and then the Oscilloclock (R)

Casper – as drawn by my son (L) and then the Oscilloclock (R)

The current method – Painful

I have another blog post series in progress describing the theory behind Circle Graphics figure display, so I won’t elaborate on details, but the current process of getting a figure from paper to screen is very much manual:

  1. Roughly sketch out your figure on graph paper.
  2. Split out your lines and curves into blanked circle and line segments.
  3. For each segment, roughly ascertain the circle’s radius (width and height) and centre coordinates.
  4. Type the numbers into the code file, in PIC assembly language syntax.
  5. Build the code and Program the PIC.
Easy?

NO.The figure looks NOTHING like you expect. The size is wrong. The edges don’t meet up. The curvature is out. The thing is upside down. All of the above!

  • Repeat steps 3, 4, 5 for several hours. Drink coffee. Redraw and repeat for yet another few hours.

  • Finally – Celebrate the birth of a new figure!

The Easier Way

The new Oscilloclock Figure Creator utility allows you to easily create and modify font characters, graphic images, and sprites – interactively.

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Circle Graphics – Lissajous figures

By the time you read this post, you must have seen the term “Circle Graphics” in a thousand places across the site.

In fact, “Circle Graphics” is not an official term – I just use it to describe how shapes are drawn on these clocks:

Everything you see on this screen is made up of CIRCLES! Blank out part of a circle and you get an arc. Squish an arc and you get a line. This clock simply draws circles, lines, and arcs of different sizes at various points around the screen. It does it quickly. And it does it very, very well!

The effect of using circles is beautiful – shapes are smooth and precise, with no jagged edges or pixelation.

Beautiful circles with no jagged edges

Making “perfect” circles

I carry on as if it were some incredible new concept or discovery, like the Higgs boson. But in fact, the analog technique of constructing perfect circles, ovals, and lines on a CRT is very, very old. These figures are really part of a class of shapes called Lissajous Figures.

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Oscilloclock.com site is open!

This site is dedicated to showcasing my Scope Clock designs, and to sharing technical information openly to anyone interested in these vintage electronic timepieces.

What is an “(Oscillo)scope Clock”?

A unique style of clock that displays the time (and other fun things) on a CRT taken from an old oscilloscope. These clocks operate on a fusion of old and new electronics, and are often housed in beautifully crafted cases of wood, metal, or acrylic.

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