Building the Astro Clock

In the last post, we took a look at a funky new sidereal clock from the Oscilloclock Lab. Now let’s take a look at what fanciness went into it!

The Hardware

[Alan], our astronomer protagonist, wanted to install all the electronics inside his Tektronix 620 X-Y Monitor. He didn’t need a nice fancy case.

Demonstration of a Lissajous circle
No pixels here! Circle Graphics

No problem! We supplied the Oscilloclock Bare – our stand-alone controller board that generates images and text rendered in smooth and silky Lissajous figures.

The board ships on a cast acrylic mount to make it easy to test externally, prior to installation into the host piece of equipment.

Next, we added the Oscilloclock Wave. This is a Wi-Fi adapter that allows an Oscilloclock to pull (Solar) time from NTP servers over the internet, keeping accurate time indefinitely.

Bare-bones Wave Core module

For [Alan], we left the cabling and aesthetics options open, and shipped the basic Wave Core module instead of the stand-alone type pictured above.

Finally, we included a decent quality power pack, to allow running the assembly prior to installation.

This would eventually be eliminated by powering the unit from the Tek 620’s internal supply itself.

The software – Sidereal time enhancements

To transform the Oscilloclock Bare into the astronomically great Astro Clock that it is today, we needed sidereal time.

Querying the sidereal API. Easy as pie!

Easy! The US Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications Department provides a publicly available API for querying sidereal time, given a location.

The Oscilloclock Wave already had features to pull earthquake data from a similar API and push it to the Oscilloclock for display. Extending this for another API wasn’t astronomically difficult.

The Wave sports a bunch of advanced settings for particularly tweak-loving oscillofans out there. We just needed to add a few more! These are to enable querying and sending sidereal time to the Oscilloclock, and to set the location.

Setting up for sidereal time

But why not just calculate sidereal time?

Some readers may have guessed that formulae and code libraries for calculating sidereal time are readily available. Why didn’t we just implement the calculation in code, and avoid depending on an external API?

Our minimalist PIC 18F2680 even had a terrible bug at one point…

Well, I’ve mentioned before that the current revision Oscilloclock Control Board uses a minimal-specification microcontroller with very limited capabilities, and is heavily optimized by coding in assembly language.

Sadly, this chip was already jam-packed to the hilt, and there simply wasn’t any more space left for the code and run-time memory needed to calculate sidereal time internally.

And writing the necessary floating-point calculations in assembly would be no mean feat!

Why Assembly Code?

Because We Can.

But, it sure ain’t easy…

So NO – we couldn’t easily calculate sidereal time, and it was API Option full steam ahead!

Astro Screens!

Even with its minimalist microcontroller chip, we’ve managed to squeeze some amazing stuff into the Oscilloclock Control Board firmware.

For more of the weird and wacky, see Screens & Things!

For this build, we needed yet more screens.

First, we used our trusty Figure Creator software to render a rudimentary telescope into Circle Graphics sprite code.

Astro Clock splash screen

We then crafted a simple Astro Clock splash screen, by adding some random circles for stars and laying out basic text around the telescope.

Finally, we added some basic digital and analog clock screens, using the same telescope figure as a centrepiece. This was mostly straightforward, but the existing clock hand drawing code did need some tweaking, to reference either solar time or sidereal time depending on the active screen.

Done!

Invoiced. Paid. Shipped. Received. Treasured forever. Right?

Wrong!

Sidereal really sidelined…

A year after [Alan] received his lovely Astro Clock, the unhappenable happened. The Astronomical Applications API was taken down!

“undergoing modernization”… a harbinger of API death! Jan 2020 snap courtesy archive.org

The site was taken offline for a planned six months, for “modernization”. [Alan]’s sidereal clock was relegated to a normal solar Oscilloclock, albeit temporarily.

But as lovers of electron beams striking phosphor, we always look at the bright side! Six months is still relatively short in astronomical terms! We resignedly marked “X” on the calendar, and bided our time.

But then… the unfathomable fathomed. The COVID-19 pandemic struck. The USNO site modernisation was completely halted – very likely deprioritised in the midst of indiscriminate illness, clinical chaos, and staff shortages.

Halted… 2 years later, still no luck… Mar 2022 snap courtesy archive.org

We waited, and waited, and waited. There were no fingernails remaining to chew when, after two and a half years, a revised API was finally made available at the end of 2022. Hooray! Thank the stars!

API resurrected

Fresh API documentation in hand, we set about modifying the Wave to use the fresh fruits of the USNO modernisation machine.

Fortunately, there were only minor changes to the API – a few more mandatory data fields, a change in date format and such. These required a relatively small amount of rework in the Wave’s firmware.

And … we were back in the amateur astronomy business.

Almost like a big Christmas present from Santa!

Was this [Alan]’s Christmas present? – Santa in your Clock

Do we regret taking the API approach?

It’s a good question. API death could happen at any time – possibly rendering the Astro Clock lifeless, listless, or lethargic yet again.

But, no. The decision not to calculate internally was valid, based on the known constraints. And we did our veritable utmost to revive poor [Alan]’s Astro Clock as soon as possible.

By the way, we at the Oscilloclock Lab certainly can’t complain about USNO’s API shutdown. We, too, have been heavily impacted by pandemic and other worldly events. As of this posting, our formal activities, too, remain on pause…

… for now!


Curious about other Oscilloclocks that use APIs? Check out the AfterShock Clock, which taps into an earthquake API to display earthquakes in (almost) real-time on a lissajous-rendered map!

Astro Clock

A few years ago, we introduced Metropolis Time, a time system based on the 20-hour, two-shift days featured in Fritz Lang’s iconic movie Metropolis.

Since then, we’ve received a few requests to craft clocks that display some other calendar and time systems – from the ancient and archaic, to the religious, to the scientific.

That’s Astronomical!

Today’s exciting story began with a request from [Alan], a prominent amateur astronomer. He happened to have a lovely Tektronix 620 X-Y Monitor lying around, and wanted to turn it into a clock.

Well, that would be easy – the Oscilloclock Bare is a bare-bones controller assembly that can be used to drive an oscilloscope or XY monitor that meets certain requirements (for the techies: a DC coupled Z-axis amplifier). And the Tek 620 is perfect – wonderfully performant, and perfectly compatible. Job done! Right?

Oscilloclock Bare + Tek 620 + scientific passion = Astro Clock!

No way! [Alan] didn’t want just any old clock. The custom splash screen above was pretty cool, but could his clock display something called “sidereal time“?

Yes! Anything is possible, and here’s what we ended up delivering: several custom clock faces showing sidereal time (in both analog and digital formats), in addition to all the standard screens that are based on solar time.

The shipped Astro Clock assembly!

But what is sidereal time?

A Solar day

Well, most normal human beings and their clocks like to measure a 24 hour day by using the Sun as a reference point. One solar day is the time it takes for the Earth to spin on its axis enough and see the Sun at the same height in the sky as the previous day.

For example, let’s say it’s 1 May 2023. It’s lovely weather out, and you happen to notice that the Sun reached its highest point in the sky at 12:30 pm. The next day, 2 May, you would find the Sun at its highest point at — you guessed it! — 12:30 pm. And if you ignore man-made tweaks such as daylight savings, you find the Sun is always at its highest point at 12:30 pm*, year-round, looking from the same location.

*This is not quite true – because every day is slightly shorter or longer. But it averages out over the year.

A sidereal day

Sidereal time, on the other hand, uses the distant stars as a reference point to measure 24 hours. One sidereal day is the time it takes for the Earth to spin on its axis enough to see the same distant star at the same height in the sky as the previous day.

Because the Sun is so close, and a distant star is so (relatively) far, there is a difference in the length of a sidereal day compared to a solar day. A sidereal day turns out to be approximately 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4.0905 seconds.

Confused? I don’t blame you. This video should help:

History and Sidereal clocks

According to this brilliant post, the concept and utility of sidereal time has been around a very long time. The length of a sidereal day was even calculated to a surprisingly high level of accuracy some 1,500 years ago!

Here are two surviving sidereal clocks that were made “recently” – just a few centuries ago.

But who on Earth would use sidereal time?

Astronomers would.

Most people don’t look at the boring old Sun all the time. We look out to the stars and galaxies far, far beyond our solar system. If an astronomer wants to track the position of Betelgeuse day after day, she can record the sidereal time that she saw it, and know that it’ll be at the same ascension at the same sidereal time the following day. Brilliant!

Mariners and Astronauts would.

They can fix their location even when the Sun is not visible, by observing the position of the stars and calculating their position back from the current sidereal time. Life-saving!

Oscilloclock Labs would.

Because we can.


In the next post, we’ll take a look at the build. What hardware went into this Astro Clock? How on earth does it tick? Can you figure it out?

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!

War Games on an Oscilloclock!

As I’ve hinted before, your friendly Oscilloclock gang is entirely pacifistic. We abhor the thought of actual military activity in this modern day and age. BUT we love games just as much as anyone – and we also love light-hearted movies with happy endings!

So when [Ian] (of Bunker Club Clock fame) came up with the idea of a feature based on the iconic 1984 flick “War Games“, I pounced on the chance!

Check out my YouTube channel to see this and other videos in HD!

Now, this may look like a simple animation. But Ian’s Oscilloclock is powered by a tiny processor with minimal specifications, and 100% of the code is written in assembly language. Implementing this baby in assembly and keeping within just 3K of RAM was quite an accomplishment!!

About the host clock

The gorgeous model shown here is a painstakingly-retrofitted Heathkit CO-1015 Engine Analyzer. It’s the perfect play-toy for any serious motor-head who grew up during the Cold War!

First up on the custom build list is the original meter fitted with amber LED lighting and ticking audibly each second. (And yes, the tick intensity can be easily adjusted.)

Next up, there is the optional External X-Y input feature. Normally, this is used for plain and simple Lissajous figures like the below…

… but by tweaking some settings, we can get some segments of Jerobeam Fenderson’s incredible Oscilloscope Music Kickstarter video to display quite nicely!

Peeking inside the Engine Analyzer Oscilloclock is also a must-do! Not only is this visually appealing, but you also get a significant olfactory kick from the sweet smell of vintage electronic components…

Attractive Oscilloclock boards and cabling, neatly tucked away

The original circuit is completely bypassed – but still looks awesome!

Tech Talk – Strategies, Maps, and Missiles

The War Games feature uses the Oscilloclock’s Sprite Engine module to display the world map and up to 9 missiles when the W.O.P.R. system is simulating various war strategies.

32 of the 130+ strategies seen in the movie are implemented. For each strategy, a random number of missiles are launched along a predefined Primary trajectory, followed by a random number of missiles along a predefined Retaliatory trajectory. If any of the 9 missiles remain, they are launched along randomly selected (but predefined) trajectories.

Trajectories are predefined because computing them using 8-bit arithmetic would consume a huge number of cycles! At least, a small amount of randomness is added to the launch position and velocity parameters at run-time, to make things more interesting.

As the simulation progresses through the strategies, the speed of the launches increases and the delay between launches decreases. This gives a similar effect to that in the move, where WOPR moves through strategies at warp speed until it realises that there is no winning this game…

A Joint Effort

Creating a huge number of realistic trajectories (68 in total), translating start and end X and Y coordinates from latitude and longitude into the Oscilloclock’s Cartesian plane was a task of mind-blowing proportions! Here we see our 2nd junior technician eagerly earning his room and board.


Like what you see?

Are you a petrol-head? You need an Engine Analyzer ticking over at your bedside or in your office! Were you brought up during the Cold War, perhaps in the Soviet Union or in the US? Get the War Games feature and fry the world safely! Contact me if you like what you see.

(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.)

Quake News!

Fake news – a common keyword these days. Fortunately, Oscilloclocks do not display fake news. But wouldn’t it be handy to see quake news on an exotic scope clock? This is the challenge [Atif] gave me – and one year and many grey hairs later, here is the result: The AfterShock Clock!

This custom-crafted Oscilloclock Core Duo assembly is a unique first in several ways:

  1. It’s the first scope clock ever that pulls in and displays real earthquake data!
  2. It’s the first scope clock ever that puts a dual-beam CRT to good use – one beam for the clock display, and the other for the earthquake and map overlay!

Earthquake display

The AfterShock Clock’s WiFi module connects at regular intervals to two public APIs (servers) to collect the latest earthquake events. It then feeds earthquakes to the clock’s quake gun controller, rotating quakes every 30 seconds. Cool!

(Note: flickering is due to camera effects and is not visible to the human eye)

Of course, there is the usual wide variety of standard clock screens to cycle through! The quake map’s beam is automatically dimmed for most of the screens, giving a soft ‘watermark’ effect.

Dual-beam CRT

The E10-12GH CRT used in this clock is certainly not mundane!

Beautiful spiral PDA lets you really see inside the cavity!

Nothing beats a dual-gun CRT for intricacy… (except a quad- or pentuple-gun CRT!)

Oscilloclock Core Duo

Atif wanted to create his own case, so he initially asked for an Oscilloclock Core. But currently a single Core set does not provide control, deflection, and blanking circuits to drive TWO electron guns… So he had two choices:

  1. Wait an eternity for me to redesign the boards to fully support dual beams.
  2. Get started now! Simply put two Core assemblies together, with some degree of inter-control and removing any redundant circuits.

Atif chose the latter – and the Oscilloclock Core Duo was born!

WiFi setup

Setting up the WiFi connection is easy – just connect a device to the clock’s administration SSID and pull up the admin page. (To foil any would-be hackers out there, the admin SSID is available only for the first 5 minutes after power is applied.)

Then, access the admin URL and configure the connection to your home router:

There are a million other advanced settings to tweak things such as quake polling interval, quake magnitude filters, maximum quake age before purge, and other geeky aspects….

Oh, I forgot to mention – the clock also synchronizes time against an NTP server, eliminating the need for a GPS module.


Like what you see?

Do you go for electron guns? idolize intricate electrode assemblies? Have a filament fetish? Or just want some quake news? This kind of clock might fit the bill. Let me know!

Bunker Club Clock

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.)

Burn-in? Nope!

Many folks have asked whether screen burn-in, or phosphor burn, is not a problem. They are concerned by what was a frequent occurrence in the CRT monitors and oscilloscopes of yesteryear: a permanent scar prominently visible on the screen…

Phosphor burn – this old spectrum analyser looks ‘on’ even when it’s off!

To understand why this occurs, first think of an iron burn. If you deliver too much heat for too long into the same spot, your nice new Oscilloclock brand T-shirt will feature a prominent (and permanent) mark as shown below.

Iron burn – this shirt’s fibres have been literally scorched!

(I could push for another analogy, and describe livestock branding – but I think you get the message.)

In a CRT, a beam of fast-moving electrons bombards the phosphor coating on the screen to produce an image. If the beam is too intense, or it is allowed to trace the same route on the screen over a long period of time, the phosphor compound may degrade and lose its luminance. The end result is:

  • The screen won’t light up well in those spots any longer.
  • The damaged areas may appear dark even with the power off – a ‘ghost image’.

Interestingly, this damage does not actually shorten the working life of the CRT! (It does not affect the longevity of the heater, or the amount of gas permeating the vacuum.) However, it is certainly not attractive, and is most definitely NOT an effect you wish to observe on your fancy custom-crafted Oscilloclock…

Keeping the ghosts at bay

Happily, screen burn-in is not much a problem with the Oscilloclock. Let’s see why.

1. CRT selection

Some CRT types and brands are more susceptible to screen burn-in than others. There are a number of factors for this, and all of these are considered during CRT selection to minimize the risk of burn-in:

First, there is the phosphor compound used. Some phosphors, just by their chemical makeup, degrade faster than others. More significant, though, is the fact that some phosphors require more energy (electron beam intensity) to produce the same level of visible light output as others.

For example, a long-persistence blue P7 phosphor, such as used in the Model 1-S and the Prototype, is by its nature ‘darker’; it requires a higher beam intensity than the crisp green P1 or P31 phosphors used in many other models. The higher beam does make the P7 more vulnerable to burn-in.

Different phosphors need different intensities to appear ‘bright’ – so some will burn faster

Fortunately, the simple protection mechanisms in place in the Oscilloclock (we’ll get to these later) will avoid burn-in even on sensitive phosphors. The customer need not be concerned about this risk factor, and can select any of the available phosphors.

The second factor is the thickness of the phosphor coating. The thicker the phosphor, the less burn-in for the same beam intensity. Some CRTs are infamous for having ridiculously thin phosphor coatings, making them extremely susceptible to burn-in. Sadly, some CRTs that are most readily available today fall into this category, and their data sheets even specify an incredibly short maximum longevity of 1000 hours. That’s less than 2 months of continuous use!

Beware CRTs with short lifetime ratings – they may have ridiculously thin phosphors!

Most CRT manufacturers did not publish lifetime ratings, nor did they publish specifications of phosphor thickness. In the Oscilloclock lab, I rely mainly on my and others’ experiences with the manufacturer, and pick and choose only the highest-quality CRTs. Expensive – but definitely worth it!

The third factor is the use of any additional technology in the CRT that would allow for reduced beam intensities. The most common example is the aluminized screen, an additional coating on the rear of the phosphor. This coating reflects the light that would normally emanate from the phosphor towards the rear of the CRT, back into the phosphor (and the front of the screen). A much more efficient use of energy!

However, this technology was a later development, so many CRTs with an aluminized screen tend to be rectangular and have an in-built graticule. These may not be as visually pleasing in a standard Oscilloclock as non-aluminized CRTs.

2. Software (Firmware) protection mechanisms

Remember the phrase “screen saver”? In the pre-LCD monitor days, most computers employed some form of software that would stop the same image being displayed for too long, to avoid screen burn-in.

My favourite screensaver – Flying Toasters!
(Image used under Fair Use terms)

While there is nothing as fancy as flying toasters, the Oscilloclock has several mechanisms in place.

  1. Hourly XY Bump screen saver
    This feature simply shifts the image by a small amount in the X and Y directions every hour. The shift pattern repeats every 31 hours (a prime number), to ensure that every hour numeral will be placed in every screen position.

  2. Auto screen switch
    This feature simply cycles through the screens (clock faces) at regular intervals, configurable from 0 (off) to 90 seconds. This is by far the most commonly enabled feature, as it allows one to enjoy all the Oscilloclock screens without touching the control!

  3. Auto power off
    Strongly recommended by Oscilloclock labs, this feature simply turns the Oscilloclock off after a period of non-activity (not touching the control), configurable from 0 (off) to 90 minutes.

    This may sound counter-intuitive, but in practice, nearly all Oscilloclock owners are comfortable to turn their unit on just when they intend to enjoy it, and allow it to switch itself off. The exceptions are clocks that are permanent fixtures in offices and restaurants, in which case the owners manually turn their clocks on and off together with other appliances in the premises.

These features are of course highlighted in the Operation Guide that accompanies every Oscilloclock.

Summing it up

So there we have it – there’s not so much to be concerned about after all. While CRTs do have a delicate phosphor coating, by selecting a decent CRT in the first place and looking after it in use, the risk of screen burn-in is drastically reduced. In fact, in 7 years of constructing Oscilloclocks, as of today not a single unit has come back for a CRT replacement!

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.