The Nixie NumechronTM blends the 1950s look and feel of neon nixie display tubes with modern digital electronics to provide a timepiece which is as beautiful as it is functional. The digits animate smoothly from second to second, one digit lighting moments before the previous winks out.
Nixie tubes were widely used throughout the fifties and sixties wherever numeric displays were needed, in applications ranging from military gear to telephone central office switching equipment. They were supplanted by LED displays in the early 1970s, and are quite rare today. Many people have never seen these archaic yet fascinating devices.
The display on the Nixie NumechronTM shows hours, minutes, and seconds in 12 or 24 hour mode. At the press of a button, the display shows the year, month, and date. The illuminated portion of the digits are about 1.5" tall (clearly legible from 20 feet away).
These close-up views show the delicate complexity of the tubes themselves. Each tube has a stack of electrodes, each in the shape of a numeral 0 through 9, each spaced slightly apart. As the time advances, the different electrodes are energized, causing a warm, orange, neon glow around the electrode in the shape of the numeral. In the left image you can see the various electrodes stacked around the number 4; in the right image the digits 3 and 9 are turning off as the numbers 4 and 0 are turning on. The varying depth of the electrodes and the fact that they are not stacked sequentially provides the unique animating neon look of the nixie tube.
Although the display technology is old, the rest of the circuitry is state-of-the-art. The voltage necessary to light the neon is provided by a modern pulse-width-modulated switching power supply, which is regulated to maximize the life of the tubes. The time is maintained by a battery-backed circuit which keeps counting even when the unit is unplugged. The result is as accurate as it is attractive.