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Wind, rain, obsolete glowing things, and Shakespeare

I was hoping the weather would be fine this weekend because I had a long list of maintenance jobs I wanted to do on Fenchurch. That is why I've spent much of today and yesterday working outside in close to zero temperatures with a strong windchill factor and a constant light drizzle. I did manage to do most of the stuff on my list before it started trying to snow and I came back inside. It's unfortunate that the garage under my office that I did the respray in now contains a large trailer. The garage we have next to the house is just big enough to park the car in and squeeze around one side (if I clear a load of junk out first); it's too cramped to want to use it for jobs that involve taking all the wheels off.

When I wasn't getting cold and wet outside I've been doing a lot of reading about Nixie tubes and neon indicator lamps. I'd heard of Nixie tubes and even have an old piece of test equipment with a few in it, but they were obsolete before I was born so I've never worked with them. Recently there has been a resurgence in their popularity, usually in the form of digital clocks, as people come to realise that they actually look a lot prettier than the seven segment LED displays that replaced them. You can still buy them as New Old Stock even though the last factories that made them closed down shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Neon lamps are still commonly used as a power indication light in mains-powered equipment such as multi-way socket adapters. I didn't know that Nixie tubes are basically glorified neon lamps, and I had no idea how versatile the lamps are. They were even used to build digital logic gates in the days before semiconductors took over. Don't believe me? Take a look at this!

You might be wondering why I've suddenly developed an interest in obsolete optoelectronics. The reason is that I've decided to use Nixie tubes for the score display and an array of 200 cheap neon lamps as the main display of my retro-futuristic Tetris machine. I originally wanted to build a mechanical display but it proved impractical and would have cost far too much for the parts.

Next weekend is starting to look a bit busy. I'm going to the Morris Minor Owners' Club AGM in Derby on Saturday, a vintage slot machine fair in Coventry on Sunday, and at some point I need to pick up a heater for Fenchurch from a bloke who lives near Birmingham. I'm thinking of trying to stay in the Stratford upon Avon YH on Saturday, and if I do that it might be worth also trying to see a play at the Royal Shakespeare Company's Courtyard Theatre (they'll be performing Henry V).

Comments

We can't compete with Shakespeare here I'll admit but if you need to stay somewhere not too far from Birmingham, you are more than welcome.
Thanks. I've just booked my bed and theatre seat in Stratford but I could pop in for a visit on Saturday morning if you like?
You're more than welcome to drop by. You're going to need a holiday to recover from this weekend you have planned!
About 10AM OK? Can you or John email some rough directions to my first name at alexholden dot net please? If you'd like to go for a trip in Fenchurch have a think about where you'd like to go. I don't need to set off to Derby until 12.
Directions sent, see you Saturday.
Directions received OK. See you then!
I read this and thought WTF! SNOW !!! and then checked our forecast for tonight and it's all sleety. We're still only on a 10% chance of a White Christmas, though.
It wasn't even close to sticking but it certainly felt very cold with the windchill. The unheated garage felt positively cosy in comparison.

Now the frost has come I've given up on the idea of building a more powerful heater for Fenchurch any time soon and am going to fit a working original one instead. I'm told the early type is actually pretty good as long as they're not bunged up with rust inside.
To be honest, it took about three nanoseconds to work out why you'd developed an interest in obsolete electronics.

I've decided i like Nixie tubes, they're sweet.
I haven't tasted one but they're certainly shiny. I powered up my nixie-tube frequency counter this morning just to watch them glow.
Snow?! You had snow?
The weather was bloody freezing in the south yesterday, i know that ~ I thought we'd be seeing the return of the Ice Giants! But we didn't even have any sleet. Seems I'll have a use for the leggings I bought during the summer though.

Glad you found a solution for the Tetris thing. The effect given by Nixie tube lights look abit like rope lights ~ you know, a whole imagime instead of the decimated one given by LED displays. The look like they generate alot of heat though(?)

It does indeed sound like you'll need a holiday to recover from next weekend lol ~ I bet getting the car heater will be worth it all though ;-) I hope you get to see the Shakesphere play.
I like your new userpic. :)

It wasn't proper snow, just the odd flake that melted as soon as it touched the ground. Ah, the fabled leggings. ;)

Yes, the nice thing about Nixies is that the tube contains a stack of digits, each one made from a bit of wire bent into the shape of the number, so they're nice elegant shapes. Apparently some of the Russian ones used an upside down 2 as the 5, which looks a bit odd, but the ones I'm buying are British-made so they shouldn't have that problem. There are some rare ones around that have various symbols inside instead of numbers. They don't get hot because they use very little power - the Neon gas in the tube glows when you pass a small current between the anode and the cathode. Their main disadvantage compared to LEDs is that they need a relatively high voltage power supply and transistors that can switch high voltages.