Vintage Displays Hack Chat with Fran Blanche

To Nixie tubes and beyond!

Wednesday, August 11, 2021 12:00 pm PDT Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Fran Blanche will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, August 11 at noon Pacific.

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In terms of ease of integration and density of the information that can be shown, it's hard to argue with the fact that modern displays like LCD panels are anything but superior to the character-based displays of yore. Throw one into a project, add a little code from a few off-the-shelf libraries to drive it, and you're on to the next job.

Efficient, yes, but what does this approach do for the engineer's soul? What design itch does it scratch; what aesthetic does it celebrate? Nostalgic questions, true, and not every project lends itself to exploring old display technologies. But some still do, thankfully, and when the occasion calls for it, we're glad that there are those out there who are still actively involved in the retro display community, making sure that what was once state-of-the-art technology is still able to be added to modern projects.

There's no doubt that Fran Blanche is one of those passing the torch of vintage displays down to the next generation. You'll certainly know Fran from her popular Fran Lab channel on YouTube, where in addition to about a million other interests, she has explored some really cool vintage displays: the Nimo cathode-ray tube, super-bright incandescent seven-segment displays, the delightfully strange "Bina-View", and many, many more. Fran will stop by the Hack Chat to talk about all these retro displays, what she's learned from collecting them, and how they shaped the displays we take so much for granted these days. Oh, and perhaps we'll also talk about her upcoming ride on "G-Force 1" as well.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Dan Maloney08/11/2021 at 21:07 0 comments

    Dan Maloney12:00 PM
    Greetings all, welcome to the Hack Chat. I'm Dan, I'll be moderating today along with Dusan as we welcome Fran Blanche to talk about Vintage displays. I'm not sure I've seen her log on yet, though -- you out there, Fran?

    jonathan.sparks joined  the room.12:01 PM

    Fran Blanche12:01 PM
    Hey all!

    Dan Maloney12:01 PM
    Hi Fran, welcome aboard!

    Nicolas Tremblay joined  the room.12:01 PM

    Fran Blanche12:02 PM
    My IBM Model 8 is ready to go.

    Dan Maloney12:02 PM
    330 baud for life...

    morgan12:02 PM

    Dan Maloney12:03 PM
    So I think we're all pretty familiar with you from Fran Lab and Fran Tone, but maybe you can just give the newbies a quick intro?

    Thomas Shaddack12:03 PM
    330 baud could be survivable, with enough bits per symbol.

    Fran Blanche12:04 PM
    Quick would be impossible but I'm really full time FranLab these days...

    Fran Blanche12:05 PM
    I've posted hours of condensed back story on the channel in several long form videos...

    Dan Maloney12:06 PM
    Gotta say, watching all that drama about having to find a new space was kinda heartbreaking. Hope the rent situation stays stable for a while.

    Fran Blanche12:08 PM
    It's always at risk. In Brooklyn I got tossed out of my first Frantone factory that I had built with a paid lease. Nothing is ever certain.

    Fran Blanche12:09 PM
    I guess everyone's holding off on their questions till later.

    Fran Blanche12:09 PM
    Or maybe I've put everything out there already...

    Dan Maloney12:10 PM
    I guess I'll start us off then -- what's the latest on your upcoming ride of G Force One?

    Patrick Hickey12:10 PM
    Fran, Hello from Edinburgh Scotland. I enjoy your videos, especially those featuring displays like the unboxing collection a few years back, and the NASA segment display. I am completely obsessed with LEDs and displays myself, I have almost everything from the Monsanto MV1 to the more recent HP hybrid displays. Perhaps one day we could arrange a swap / trade?

    Fran Blanche12:11 PM
    All systems are go. There is a lot involved just to get on the plane, but I hope we've sorted everything out.

    Fran Blanche12:12 PM
    @Patrick Hickey - I get asked all the time to trade or sell stuff, but FranLab is basically a museum so I will keep it all together for posterity.

    morgan12:13 PM
    as a lover of obscure (and not) museums, would/have you even considered a future public display? similar to what LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER is working towards with the synth museum?

    Fran Blanche12:14 PM
    It's really all about cost. In Philadelphia public space is expensive and weirdly hard to get. I'd love to do it, but it would cost a fortune.

    Fran Blanche12:17 PM

    Fran Blanche12:20 PM
    This feed is sort of like a bunch of people standing quietly by a freeway waiting patiently for a crash to happen.

    Dan Maloney12:20 PM
    That's pretty cool. Wonder if it's solid inside or actually has walls. Where's that displayed?

    Fran Blanche12:21 PM
    The Franklin Institute. I imagine it's very hollow.

    Dan Maloney12:21 PM
    It's summer -- maybe everyone is taking a siesta.

    Patrick Hickey12:21 PM
    @Fran Blanche what would you consider the rarest, most obscure or favorites of your display collection?

    Thomas Shaddack12:22 PM
    Politicians are like bells. Noisy and hollow.

    Fran Blanche12:22 PM
    Hard to say what the rarest is, since doing the original NIMO videos they've been popping up here and there. So far the Bina-View still seems to be one of a kind.

    Thomas Shaddack12:24 PM
    Are the multidigit vintage displays multiplexed or statically driven? the static ones can be pretty handy for eg. time/counter/whatever displays for high-speed camera work where the multiplex would hopelessly flicker.

    MrPeach joined  the room.12:24 PM

    Fran Blanche12:25 PM
    Multiplexing did not really become a thing until digital calculators. I prefer direct drive because I hate the flicker of MUXed displays.

    Dan Maloney12:28 PM
    Fran, that big lot of surplus from the university lab cleanout seems like it was a major score. Any tips for the rest of us on...

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