Bunker Club Clock

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It’s the 1970’s. The cold war. The U.S. and Russia aim nuclear weapons at each other. How do you prepare for the worst? Why, you build a bunker, of course!

Today, [Ian] has done just that. Not a real nuclear fallout shelter, of course, but a period-themed bar called the Bunker Club. What better way to face disaster, than over drinks with the mates!

Ian decided to pepper his bar with vintage equipment that looked the part. But he wanted to make them truly functional, to entertain his retro-loving customers. So, he commissioned the Bunker Club VectorClock!

Now, regular followers of the blog will easily recognize the base unit here as a Tektronix 520A Vectorscope. So far a total of four of these delightfully-lighted machines have been converted to retro Oscilloclocks – see the Gallery for other examples.

But as always with any model, Ian wanted to make some cool customizations. Let’s look at two of them.

1. External XY Input

First introduced in the Metropolis Clock, this feature allows Ian to input two signals and visualize them in X-Y format on the screen. This is very, very useful for generating custom Lissajous figures externally – using either a cheap signal generator, or even an iPhone!

Lissajous figures from an iPhone!

Cool Lissajous figures – even from a humble iPhone! (note, this picture is of the Metropolis Clock)

The external signals are rendered within a rectangular ‘window’, pre-configured to look nice alongside other standard parts of the Oscilloclock screens. For some screens, the window is drawn large but with a lower intensity, forming a kind of ‘watermark’. This is an awesome effect!

2. Custom Logos

Nearly all Oscilloclocks feature some kind of customized logo. Past examples include the customers’ business’ name, the name of the oscilloscope manufacturer, or even the name of the customer’s favourite film:

Toshiba ST-1248D - Brass bezel

Kikusui 537

Metropolis Clock

In Ian’s case, the obvious candidate was his new bar’s official logo – a very chunky-looking rocket blasting through the atmosphere!

Further enhancements … on the way

It seems Ian enjoyed his first clock so much, that he has commissioned a second, with a completely different physical look. Some further special effects and display animation are planned, to further enhance the nuclear theme and keep his customers happy. Stay tuned!


Like what you see?

Do you own a bar? Well, normally you wouldn’t want a clock in your premises, as it would help customers keep track of their time, which would be bad for business. But Oscilloclocks are so much more than timekeepers! Recent feature additions make them lots of fun to watch and fiddle with. If you have special ideas, let me know!

(Disclaimer: Oscilloclock.com hopes that no-one is offended by the deliberately light-hearted tone of this post, in referring to the decidedly serious topic of nuclear warfare.)

Metropolis Mania!

Oscilloclocks are special. Oscilloclocks are unique. We know this. But in November 2015, a request for something exceptionally special and unique arrived from [Andrew] – he wanted me to craft a Metropolis movie themed timepiece!

Metropolis Movie PosterMetropolis is a classic science-fiction silent movie created by Fritz Lang in 1927. It’s an amazingly beautiful film with a fascinating plot, passionate acting, and attractive futuristic props and architecture heavily influenced by the Art Deco and other artistic movements. (Haven’t seen this movie? I recommend “The Complete Metropolis”, Blu-Ray version!)

Well, Andrew was building a very large space at his home dedicated to the Metropolis movie. It would be a full-on “man cave”, with a lounge/bar, music and video venue, mad scientist lab, and collection display space. The mad scientist part of the building would house various scientific demonstrations based on vintage physics or chemistry experiments, with a dose of mad science thrown in.

Andrew was collecting themed art and memorabilia for his man-cave, and had even commissioned a full size ‘Maria’ robot (#3 in the world) from the licensed manufacturer…

But there was one thing missing – a Metropolis 10-hour clock.

Metropolis Time

In the Metropolis movie, the Rulers enjoy their lives in normal time, but the Workers are forced to perform their heavy-labour duties in 2 shifts of 10 ‘worker hours’ each day. The Workers’ clocks are thus labelled with only 10 hours.

Metropolis clocks for Rulers and Workers

Metropolis clocks – Normal time for Rulers (top), but 10-hour time for Workers (bottom)

The 10-hour clock features in multiple scenes throughout the movie, as clear symbology that the controlling and oppressive Masters can even manipulate Time – if only on the surface!

In this scene, Freder struggles with the clock machine...

In this scene, Freder struggles with the clock machine…

[Andrew] wanted to commission an Oscilloclock that would display an authentic 10-hour Worker clock face with accurate hour, second and minute hand movement, as well as the normal 12 (24) hour Ruler clock faces. He also wanted all numerals and characters rendered in the Metropolis font. This could be THE talking piece of the man-cave!

Presenting… the Metropolis Oscilloclock!

After 8 months of discussion and development, the first Metropolis Clock was finally delivered. This unit is based on the same beautiful Toshiba ST-1248D vintage oscilloscope model used in a previous conversion. However, it incorporates some wonderful new features, including LED-backlit valves and an external input feature to support Lissajous figures generated by an iPhone or other device!

The Metropolis Clock - Toshiba ST-1248D - 01

Metropolis Clock - 06

Artwork on the splash screen evokes an image of the skyscrapers in the movie poster…

The clock keeps both 'normal' and Metropolis 10-hour time!

The clock keeps both ‘normal’ and Metropolis 10-hour time!

Realistic LED backlighting - enjoy the valves without actually heating them up!

Realistic LED backlighting – enjoy the valves without actually heating them up!

To be continued…

Each of the new features built out for this exotic creation deserves a post on its own. Stay tuned for many more pictures and information about Lissajous inputs, backlit valves, and Metropolis time switching!

Also, careful readers would notice my use of the phrase “first Metropolis Oscilloclock”. Andrew was so delighted with the Toshiba ST-1248D unit that he commissioned a second Metropolis clock with even more firmware enhancements, based on the Tektronix 520A. Another topic for another day!


See the Metropolis Archive for all other posts in this series!


Like what you see?

Metropolis is just fantastic as a theme for a custom Oscilloclock. But if you have a different passion that needs horological augmentation, let me know!

Kikusui Time

Time – the universal constant. Time passes the same for all peoples; rich or poor, busy or idle, inspired or dispirited. And time has certainly passed for Oscilloclock.com since the 2015 Tokyo Maker Faire – the event that just keeps giving!

At last, we present the final model from that Faire – the Kikusui 537 Oscilloclock!

Kikusui 537 Oscilloclock

See this in HD, and find more exciting videos on my YouTube channel

The Kikusui 537 was hand-picked for conversion by the lab’s youngest technician (9 at the time). He chose it for its small size and portability, but also for its cute colour scheme! A dainty red sweep adjustment knob highlights a bright white and black control panel, with a blue case providing overall contrast and visual soothing.

Kikusui 537 Oscilloclock

The 537 Oscilloclock’s small size makes it the perfect clock for an office desk, bedside table, or mantle. And since this is a ‘maximum re-use’ conversion, the existing circuit is active and all the front panel controls are fully functional. Fiddle with the image’s size and position to your heart’s content! Switch from XY mode to normal sweep mode, to view raw Oscilloclock signals in real time, as the seconds tick by!

History

The 537 was manufactured by Kikusui Electronics Corp., a major producer of test equipment in Japan since 1951. It was produced in large numbers from 1975 and was extremely popular for its small form factor, solid-state design, 5 MHz bandwidth, and ‘low’ price of 45,000 yen (perhaps USD 1,000 in today’s terms). See the catalogue page (Japanese only) and the operating manual (Japanese and English).

Kikusui Logo

The Kikusui Electronics Corp. logo

Construction highlights

In a previous post, I mentioned there are several general approaches to converting an oscilloscope. Since the Kikusui 537 is fully solid-state (it uses transistors instead of valves/tubes, except for the CRT) and it is only 40 years old, I decided on the maximum re-use, minimal invasion approach. (I really should trademark that term!)

This approach involves tying the Oscilloclock Control Board‘s outputs directly into the existing X and Y amplifier circuits. This was easy to do in the 537!

Kikusui 537 Oscilloclock - inside top

Oscilloclock Control Board mounted in the 537

However, as discussed in the Circle Graphics post, we also need to be able to blank the beam at extremely precise intervals. Sadly, the 537 (like nearly all oscilloscopes of this vintage) does NOT have a convenient DC pulse-tolerant Z-axis input. I therefore installed an Oscilloclock Power Board, partially populated to serve as an isolated blanking amplifier, in series with the grid.

Partially populated Oscilloclock Power Board

Partially populated Oscilloclock Power Board

Finally, an Oscilloclock Supply Board was needed to power the other boards.

An Oscilloclock Supply Board is also nestled in there!

An Oscilloclock Supply Board is also nestled in there!

Mounting the Control

What better place to fit the rotary encoder, than on the beautiful red sweep frequency adjustment knob that my junior technician liked so much! Here’s the general story:

Kikusui 537 Oscilloclock - control (original)

Sweep adjust control in its original state

After removing the potentiometer

After removing the potentiometer

The encoder, after hacking with a hacksaw!

The encoder, after hacking with a hacksaw!

Kikusui 537 Oscilloclock - control mounted

Voila – sweep knob now drives the rotary encoder!


Like what you see?

One of the two Kikusui 537 Oscilloclocks crafted for the Maker Faire is still available for the special person with a soft spot for a krazy kikusui klock. Visit the Availability page for more information, and of course see the Gallery for other unique creations!

Timedrops in Spring

Spring… a beautiful time of year! I particularly enjoy the warm rains, with the soothing effects of raindrops pit-pattering into puddles outside my window.

But no longer do I need to look outside! Inspired by a recent post on Hackaday, a suggestion from [A-Nonamus] in the neonixie-l group, and by Spring itself, I can now enjoy Timedrops on my Oscilloclocks:

See this in HD, and find more exciting videos on my YouTube channel
Music credits: Space Bazooka by Kirkoid (c) 2013 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/Kirkoid/43005

Assembly?!

The current Oscilloclock firmware is written entirely in PIC 18F Assembly. The Timedrops feature leverages a Sprite Engine module, first developed for Halloween Seasonal Treats and later utilized in the Santa’s sleigh feature.

A sprite engine

A sprite engine

To display Timedrops, the sprite engine is initialized with 10 sprites – 4 digits for hours and minutes, a colon, and 5 ellipses as ‘ripples’. The 5 characters are set at the top of the screen with a randomized negative velocity. When a character reaches the bottom boundary, the sprite engine’s default explode sequence is started, and the associated ripple sprite is made visible and set to expand. When the explosion sequence for a character sprite is complete, the sprite is reset at the top of the screen.

Looking for the source code? Sorry – refactoring is still under way, and the latest revision with the Timedrops feature will be uploaded in the near future.

The Oscilloclock Core

Over the years, folks out there have reached out to me with all sorts of crazy ideas about cases and housings for scope clocks and custom CRT displays. Here are some interesting examples:

  • The console of a vintage pipe organ
  • An ancient grandfather clock
  • A cylindrical case made of some exotic wood
  • A “cathedral” style vintage radio

Essentially, these people wanted just the innards of an Oscilloclock, which they would build into their own case. Could I help out?

Absolutely! For people who want to roll their own cases, and who have experience handling high voltage electronics and CRTs, I occasionally prepare custom board sets that are lovingly hand-assembled, tested, and tweaked for optimum performance with a given CRT. Here we go:

The Oscilloclock Core

Oscilloclock Core, hand-crafted in 2015 for a discerning customer in Germany

An Oscilloclock Core, hand-crafted in 2015 for a discerning customer in Germany


The standard Oscilloclock Core layout, on a test acrylic mounting

The standard Oscilloclock Core layout, on a test acrylic mounting

I supplied this particular unit with an 8SJ42J Chinese-made CRT, just for testing purposes. This is a 3″ PDA tube with a highly restrictive rectangular viewing area, but the customer found it just great for checking things out!

Oscilloclock Core - complete set for 8SJ42J - 03Oscilloclock Core - complete set for 8SJ42J - 06
Oscilloclock Core - complete set for 8SJ42J - 02

What comes with it?

Here’s what’s comprises the typical Oscilloclock Core:

  • 1 x Fully assembled and programmed Control Board (optional on-board GPS)
  • 1 x Fully assembled Deflection Board (latest ultra-linear revision)
  • 1 x Fully assembled Power Board optimised for a given CRT (latest revision with options: onboard high-bandwidth blanking amplifier, rotation coil supply, auto fan speed control, unblanking plate modulation, and isolated bright/dim input)
  • 1 x Fully assembled CRT Board (optional; an external blanking amplifier recommended when the CRT cable is longer than 50cm)
  • 1 x Rotary encoder
  • 1 x Worldwide 9V power supply (high quality wall wort unit, commercial ratings)
  • 1 x Garmin GPS unit with 5m cable; wired to board-side connector (not required for onboard GPS)
  • 1 x Set of standard inter-board and CRT harnesses for testing and reference (10kV/3kV silicone melt-proof used for HV cables, other LV cabling also heat-resistant)
  • 1 x Cast acrylic test mounting assembly, fitted with the boards, ready for testing out-of-the-box with your CRT
  • 1 x Ceramic adjustment screwdriver
  • Service documentation (schematics, board layouts, complete Digikey BOMs, harness specs)
  • All components are latest available types sourced within the last 6 months, 0.1% or 1% tolerance resistors, minimum 2 x rated working voltage capacitors, all lovingly hand-mounted by myself
  • All boards sprayed with HV lacquer for moisture and arcing protection
  • 2-week satisfaction guarantee. But no long-term warranty on board-only purchases

Naturally, the lengths of all harnesses and inter-board cabling can be customized according to the owner’s requirements. And there is also an Oscilloclock Core Cube arrangement, where the boards are stacked to reduce the length and width of the overall unit.

What CRTs does it support?

The Power Board and Deflection Board are increasingly flexible with each revision, but I insist on performing all configuration of the Core here in my lab. This allows me to tweak for maximum performance, and provide a proper satisfaction guarantee.

Typically I work with the owner to recommend a CRT based on preferences such as size, colour, and aesthetics. However in cases where the owner already has a CRT in mind, and I don’t have the particular CRT or a close equivalent, I ask the owner to send me one to test against. Or, I simply procure one; after all, one can never have too many CRTs!  (Though my better half does not agree…)

The current Oscilloclock Core board revisions meet the following operating parameters:

  • Maximum cathode to deflection voltage of 2175V
  • Maximum accelerator voltage of 3525V for PDA type CRTs
  • 6.3V heater, max 0.7A
  • Support for “Deflection Blanking” CRTs (see treatise here)
  • CRT rotation coil supply (+/-5V)
  • Precision deflection amplifier capable of driving +/- 275V with 0.1% linearity

Like what you see?

Check out the Availability page for more information, and of course see the Gallery for some unique CRT creations – many with an Oscilloclock Core at their heart!

Presenting the Oscilloblock!

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 OscilloblockSummer Dusk edition!

Truly the best thing to come out of the lab this summer – the Oscilloblock!

The Exterior

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!

Oscilloblock - Lego building instructions collage

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.

Oscilloblock Summer Dusk edition - rear view

Wow, these vintage bakelite CRT sockets are hard to find!

Oscilloblock - a beautiful vintage Toshiba CRT

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!

Oscilloblock - Beautiful CRT Rings

Acrylic rings with super-tiny pocket holes… cast and machined in Japan!

Internals

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.

Oscilloblock - side by side

The CRT assembly simply lifts away for showing off the internals! But DON’T TOUCH

Latest-revision boards.

Latest-revision boards. 250+ components. All hand-mounted!

On-board GPS for accurate timing - anywhere in the world!

On-board GPS for accurate timing – anywhere in the world!

Operation

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!

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.

Everything begins with an idea…

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.

Tek 520A VectorClock!

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.

Tektronix 1420 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:

Tektronix 526 Vectorscope

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!

Tektronix 520A VectorClock – brilliant blend of the old and new!


See more related videos on my YouTube channel

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!

Tek 520A VectorClock - Glorious Glow

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?

Silky smooth Circle Graphics on steroids!

Silky smooth Circle Graphics on steroids!

Under the Cover…

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.

Tek 520A VectorClock - Maximum re-use, Minimum invasion

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.

Tek 520A VectorClock - Control Board mount and cabling

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!

Tek 520A VectorClock - an unorthodox transistor replacement

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!

Santa in your Clock!

The world-renowned Santa Claus. How does he get in your house to deliver presents? Does he go down the chimney (if you have one)? Does he shrink and squeeze under your door? Of course not! What silly ideas.

Santa simply converts himself into pure energy and beams in!! I’ve seen this glorious event myself, and now you can too – with the latest Seasonal Treats enhancement from Oscilloclock.com.

Beam me in, Santa!

Beam me in, Santa!

Not only can you watch Santa on his travels, but you can even control where he drops his presents! Can YOU help him deliver the gifts?

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