A CRT Driver Board Kit?

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At Maker Faire, a lot of people asked me if I had a kit available for any of my CRT clocks. Based on the amount of interest, I’ve decided to put together a kit that will make it easy for people to drive cathode ray tubes using simple digital or low voltage analog control signals. The kit will include a PC board and all the components as well as detailed assembly instructions. For people that opt to use the digital interface, the kit will also include source code libraries making it easy to generate simple vector graphics.

The kit will use surface mount components, but none smaller than 0805. The ICs will be SOIC or SOTs, with the exception of the DAC, which is TSSOP.

Because this would be the very first surface mount kit many people attempt, I’m trying to figure out an approach for the assembly instructions that will make it easy to succeed. Some ideas I’ve had so far are:

  1. Solder the DAC first since it has a fairly fine pitch package (TSSOP). The kit might include a second DAC as a spare. By soldering it first, it’s easier to check for short circuits and open circuits. Another approach is to make a “spare parts kit” available that has some of the commonly “blown” parts.
  2. Assemble the kit in sections, testing the circuit a piece at a time. For example, after assembling the DAC, you would assemble the filament power supply and then test it to make sure it works and outputs the proper output voltage.  This makes it easy to correct any mistakes as they occur. I don’t want people to assemble the whole board, throw the switch, and not have a working kit–or worse yet, have the kit go up in smoke.
  3. It makes sense to release the assembly instructions on a site like Instructables, where it’s easy to include detailed macro photos of critical assembly details (like diode orientation). It also makes it easier to correct the instructions for mistakes, and it avoids the environmental impact of including printed instructions with the physical kit.

Hobbyists seem to have an aversion for surface mount components. With a little practice, I’ve found that it’s faster and easier to use surface mount components. Think about all the time you could save by not having to bend and clip resistor leads. You can solder most of the components without having to flip the board over.

If you have any ideas, please feel free to comment. This is all still in the early stages so there is plenty of room to change things and try new approaches.

Maker Faire 2011

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The Maker Faire is a neat DIY convention that happens every year. I’m bringing some of my projects to the Maker Faire Bay Area; just look for Tube Time. Come and say hello!

New CRTs

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The other day at the electronics flea market I obtained a couple of new CRTs. The one below has a P2 phosphor which is brighter and more energetic than the P1 and has much longer persistence. You can light it up with one of those UV LED flashlights. Notice the inspection sticker.

New CRT - 3JP2

And the one below is a fine example of the P12 phosphor–it lights up amber. The color is similar to that of the old amber MDA monitors but the persistence is longer.

New CRT - 3JP12

Maker Faire 2010

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Hello to everyone from the Maker Faire! It was great meeting you all in person. But if you missed out, here are a couple of pictures to give you an idea of what the event was all about:
Maker Faire 2010 - Tesla Concert

Maker Faire 2010 - Tesla Concert

Maker Faire 2010 - Gamelan

Maker Faire 2010 - Big Wheels

There are many more pictures in the MAKE Flickr Pool. The entire San Mateo expo center was jammed with crazy, cool, weird, and wild exhibits, projects, vehicles, and people!

My friend Jeri recorded some video of my exhibit, so take a look if you couldn’t make it to the Faire.

Electronics Flea Market Finds

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Yesterday I went to the local electronics flea market and picked up some interesting items. The first is a 3BP1 3″ round cathode ray tube. It was in the original box which was still sealed and coated with wax.
3BP1 Cathode Ray Tube
The label indicated that the tube was manufactured in 1945.
3BP1 Cathode Ray Tube
Of course I needed to open it to make sure the tube was intact. Many times these tubes are stored upside down, and often fragments of various internal parts will break off due to vibration, fall down, and ruin the phosphor screen.
3BP1 Cathode Ray Tube
I half-expected an Indiana-Jones-style puff of ancient air as I broke the seal.
3BP1 Cathode Ray Tube
And yes, it’s in perfect condition. The outside of the tube is slightly dirty but these tubes really didn’t need to be cleaned before leaving the assembly line to work properly.

The next find is an RCA 5820 Image Orthicon tube. This tube came in the original box which indicates that it was shipped to KGO-TV in San Francisco in 1953. It would have been used in the RCA TK-11 TV camera which was very common at the time.
RCA 5820 Image Orthicon
This is a closeup of the front.
RCA 5820 Image Orthicon
And here you can see the internal elements. The round bit in the middle is actually a very fine mesh screen.
RCA 5820 Image Orthicon

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