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Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey still stands up pretty well. But there’s a telling anachronism in the scene where scientists visit a monolith that’s been uncovered on the moon. On their lunar shuttle’s control panel, there are numerical indicator lights clearly made with cold-cathode displays, also known as Nixie tubes. This technology was in vogue during the mid-1950s but fell out of favor in the 1970s.
Nixie tubes still enjoy a following among enthusiasts of retro technology. I’ve sometimes been tempted to build a Nixie-tube clock, but the difficulties and expense always put me off. It’s hard even to purchase Nixie tubes at this point—especially larger ones—and they require high-voltage driver circuits, which are inherently dangerous. So I was delighted when I stumbled on something designed to mimic the appearance of Nixie tubes without the complications—something its designer calls a “Lixie display.”
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.