"In het verleden behaalde resultaten bieden geen garanties voor de toekomst"
About this blog

These are the ramblings of Matthijs Kooijman, concerning the software he hacks on, hobbies he has and occasionally his personal life.

Most content on this site is licensed under the WTFPL, version 2 (details).

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My old blog (pre-2006) is also still available.

See also my Mastodon page.

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Pretty lights!

I've been working on my own binary clock for a while now. I've managed to get the PIC microcontroller from Microchip working for some time now. After being busy with other stuff I slowly resurrected this project. Since the microcontroller part is mostly done (the software works, for the limited prototype hardware I have so far), I am focussing on the actual casing for the clock now.


The casing of the clock has a big influence on the rest of the hardware (and thus software) design. The basic idea of a binary clock is to have 3 rows of 6 LEDs each, one row for hours, minutes and seconds, each representing a binary number. Since representating a binary number isn't limited to leds but anything that can represent on and off, 1 and 0.

I'll settle for leds for now since they are easy to use and give pretty lights. The exact form is not decided yet. I had this idea of making the clock a very flat box, probably black, with 18 small (1cm) squares that illuminate (something like the TIX Pattern clock, but smaller). For that I would need white leds and colored, halftransparent plastic to put in the squares.

Shopping spree

So I went shopping today and returned with a bunch of stuff. I got some fully transparent and half transparent sturdy plastic from a hobby shop, I got some colored half transparent plastic from a carrying folder and a handful of leds in yellow, green, blue and white. I also returned with a toy gun (full metal, so nice and heavy!) for lextalionis perhaps, liquid latex that is hopefully fit for making LARP weapons and looking for a box of pins, a nice 1000 page book about hardware design of game consoles, but that's beside the point.

The box design

I also found a box meant to hold sewing accesoires. It is a half-transparent plastic that contains 18 compartments (or 17 really, since one panel is missing). When I saw it I got a vision of the backside of the box, every compartment being one bit of the clock, with leds inside.

It turned out this idea actually seemed to work out nicely. I haven't been able to try this with multiple compartments lighting up at the same time, I expect I need to add some extra (light) shielding between the compartments. Also, I need LEDs with a bigger angle. Since my leds focus the light in a tight angle, only a part of the compartment backside is lit. If I put the led within a compartement, only a small circle of light appears at the outside. I need to put the LED about 10cm from the backside to get full coverage, which is impractical and reduces light strength.

Though this design seems to be quite nice, there are two main disadvantages to it. First, when it is turned off, the clock will probably look butt ugly. After all, it's not more than a plastic bogs when the lights are off. Second, the box is big. It's way bigger than needed to hold the leds, wiring and other electronics. I would say somewhere between 95% and 99% of the space is unused. Not so nice.

I'll get some wider angle LEDS first and then I'll see if I'm gonna build it like this. For now the box serves as a way better storage for a bunch of resistors, leds and other electronic components than the small glass bowl that used to contain my electronic junk.

The squares design

As noted above, I was envisioning some sort of black box containing coloured squares that could light up. I tried this design using a few layers of paper (not black, but you didn't see the difference with the lights off) with a hole in them. I put a coloured piece of plastic with a white light behind it. This was not very succesful. The white light is so bright, you barely saw the blue colour of the plastic. When using uncoloured plastic, the light was just too bright to look in.

The other approach, using half-transparent uncoloured plastic squares, with coloured LEDs behind then, worked out better. The red, yellow and green leds had the advantage of being less bright (nicer to the eye). The blue led looked nice, but was still a little bright.

All leds suffered from the same problem as with the box design above: Their viewing angle is too small. I had to put the leds at a distance of around 5cm from the paper, which is way more that the thickness I had in mind. Also, due to this focussing the center of the square is brighter than the edges.

This looks like a very promising design. I need to get a decent piece of (black) wood, plastic or cardboard to do some more tests once I can get my hands on some wide angled LEDs.

Note to self: Get a cheap digital camera, since conveying these ideas in words is crappy ;-)

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