This project ultimately just uses the power of the BBC Microbit to communicate via radio and control the LED strips, therefore this board started out purely as a passive breakout board to mount the MicroBit and connect it to the LED strip but quickly became more complex.
I bought a set of Philips Hue White Personal Wireless Lighting LED Starter Kit on eBay which were listed as “untested” (just another way to say broken). These, when working, allow you to control the brightness of your lights via the internet from your phone. Being broken, I bought for a fraction of the cost. Now all I had to do was fix them.
Playing guitar and electronics have been two of my favourite things for a long time now. When I was about 14, I combined these two for the first time and built a pretty simply 32W amplifier. While the design is super simple, it actually has a really nice clean tone and does not distort the sound at all. It’s capable of diving an 8 ohm or 4 ohm load. Today I decided to give it a bit of a clean and check if it still worked.
As discussed in the previous article, the display is controlled by a number of shift registers. Shift registers can be controlled directly by a SPI bus, which is useful as most microcontrollers (including our ATtiny87) have a built in SPI bus peripheral. This means that writing a byte to the shift register is almost as easy as just writing a byte to a register.
My Nixie tubes have 11 active pins each: a common anode and one cathode per digit (ten in total). The anode is connected to +180V via a 47k current-limiting resistor and each cathode is connected to the collector of a high voltage bipolar transistor (MPSA42) so that current can be controlled through each of them via the base of the transistor. This gives a total of 29 transistors that need to be individually controlled (24 hour clock requires 3 possible numbers for the first digit, 10 for the second, 6 for the third and 10 for the fourth). I chose to do this by using four 8-bit shift registers, connected in series to make one, 32-bit shift register.
One big change since I did the first version of the clock is my access to professionally made PCBs. At the time, I was only able to produce PCBs via hand etching or using my home-made PCB mill. A board like this requires at least a double sided design which is not easy using the above methods and so I used veroboard. This is painfully slow and messy.
For the new version I will use a professionally made two layer PCB.
I’m replacing the screen on the logic analyser for a few reasons: The CRT is heavy and bulky – replacing it would make the whole thing lighter, an LCD could be brighter and I can add colour to the monochrome display, and on top of this it’s just an interesting project. The most important thing is that the replacement screen is not worse than the old one!