One More Design

The maker community is no stranger to Nixie tubes — especially Nixie tube clocks. There are countless DIY designs on Hackaday, for example, and plenty of kits on the market from small and large makers looking to bestow the masses with their own glowing gadget. Nixie tubes are such a simple yet somehow awesome technology that we can’t help but stare at when we see them among today’s world of LCD screens.

Not quite sold by the aesthetics and flexibility of the off-the-shelf kits on Etsy and eBay, I set off looking for lower level, preferably modular, maker designs that I could incorporate into my own housing. I wanted something minimal that could be built from-scratch using currently available components and that offered flexibility for expansion down the road. I came across

All four of these, plus the hundreds or thousands of other designs that come up from a Google search, helped me focus inspiration on a basic design architecture; however, none of them quite accomplished what I wanted on their own, or they were not sufficiently documented for me to hit the ground running without re-engineering a lot of their solution. Therefore, I decided to treat these other projects as inspirational research and design my own version from the ground up.

In the next post, we’ll look at the architecture, main components, and why they were selected.

In Medias Res

Welcome to what I’ve decided is a maker blog about, well, something on which I haven’t quite decided. That’s because I haven’t quite decided what it is that I’m doing. What I do know is that I make things. I’ve been making things for the majority of the 30+ years I’ve been alive, and I’ve learned a lot. I have the maker community to thank for that, because a core tenant of making is to share what you know. Years ago, I remember some of the most useful lessons being little tips and tricks from my dad, teachers, or other students who just wanted to share small bits of wisdom they’ve accumulated from experience. Now, the Internet has enabled sharing that wealth of collective knowledge in ways we never imagined possible, leading to an explosion of new and exciting things. I hope to use this blog as a way to contribute to that knowledge in some small way of my own.

That’s where I come into this in medias res, not as someone starting out on a journey, but attempting to pick up after having come this far to help others avoid some of the pitfalls and traps I wish I has known about. At the risk of this being just one more design blog to add to the pile, I hope to use my own experience to make the world a little better. I’ve worked on projects small and large, designed things that were entirely abstract, and seen products through from concept to cutting metal with my own hands. I also know, at least in some cases, where more information could have been shared to help everyone along. We have a habit of assuming what others may already know, and I can tell you that it’s a dangerous assumption. Many nights have been spent banging my head against my desk because someone shared a really exciting new thing they made, but they completely omitted the critical detail just out of view that makes the whole thing work. Take that as one example where if I commit that mistake here, feel free to call me out on it.

Creating this blog, journal, or design notebook — feel free to call it what you see fit — is just the first step. It will be a slow road to transfer thirty-odd years of knowledge to a more permanent medium, but it must start somewhere, even if a little bumpy at first. Illustrator and designer Christoph Niemann turned me on to a quote by a great artist:

Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightening to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.

Chuck Close

Here’s to hoping some great ideas come of this endeavor.