Getting acquainted with F9057 Nixies

A project log for French Nixie Clock

My take at making a Nixie Tube clock, with basic time keeping through an RTC chip, as well as more advanced functionalities.

Frederic LFrederic L 06/08/2018 at 16:250 Comments

A Nixie tube is in my opinion, a piece of art itself. The way it's manufactured and the way it looks even extinguished is a legacy of what technology was like in the 70's and underlines decades of technological improvements that brought us to where we stand today.

And the glowing. This orange captivating glow. Something I knew I had to have/make once I got introduced with Nixies.

Surprisingly, Nixies were not really made to look good, but to be functional. The most common Nixies we find nowadays are the soviet IN-12 ones. They are solid, cheap, and easy to source, but they have one flaw. The '5'.

The Russians got cheap and decided it was easier to use an upside-down '2' cathode to make a '5'. Though functional, this would have been better if they had designed the 2 with more vertical symmetry in the first place.

IN-12 Nixie display font
IN-12 Nixie character, 2 and 5 are the same.

For a clock that will throw glowing number at my face all day, I wanted a more harmonious font. And upon searching a bit, I found on eBay some old French F9057 at a reasonable price. The datasheet is available online (in french) and you can find it in this project's files.

I bought those about 8 months ago, and left them in a drawer until I recently decided to have a go at this project. I bought a Nixie power supply able to deliver 180V DC from a 12V adapter, looked for a breadboard and plugged it in. Here is what the tubes and digits look like.

Quick tube test
Quick test on breadboard, 180V DC, anode in series with a total of 52 kOhm resistor.
F9057 Character font
F9057 Character font, better than IN-12 in my opinion.

What do you think ?

Now that we have the face of the clock, we'll talk a bit about it's heart and how I'm planning to make it tick. Stay tuned.