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Nixie Tubes are an antiquated neon-based display technology dating back to the mid-1950s. They predate both LEDs and LCDs, which are both cheaper and simpler to operate. However, LEDs and LCDs both struggle to match the otherworldly aesthetic of these glowing glass tubes.

Back in high school I built a clock using Nixie Tubes. It was of a very primitive construction: plenty of hand-wiring, protoboard, and self-etched PCBs. Remarkably, it worked great! However, the end result was so ugly that I never used it - the negative aesthetics of the poorly cut and glued prefab plastic container more than cancelled out the positive aesthetics of the Nixie Tubes.

Something that I also wanted to do in high school, but lacked the funds (and probably the patience) to pull off, was a spectrometer-style audio meter using old Russian bargraph tubes. These are high-voltage gas-discharge tubes that display a vertical bar, which varies in length depending on how much current you supply it.

I figured it was time to revisit this old project idea.”

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