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Sputnik Time Machine

Nostalgia and microcontroller technology merged in a single design

Sputnik Time Machine

Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, was launched in 1957. It captured the attention of the entire world with the eerie beeps it transmitted, which could be received by radio amateurs everywhere in the world. Fifty years after this historic event, it seems fitting to build a clock in the shape of the Sputnik satellite that combines a nostalgic Nixie tube display with a modern microcontroller.

Technology has changed a lot in recent decades. Launching a satellite that simply transmitted a beep signal was a major achievement in 1957, but now we routinely put satellites into orbit that can transmit hundreds of television channels.

This design uses a combination of modern and old-fashioned technology. The shape of the Sputnik and the Nixie tubes are elements of old-fashioned technology, while the low-loss switching regulators for the supply voltages and the microcontroller-based control logic are examples of modern technology.

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Gerber file

CAM/CAD data for the PCB referred to in this article is available as a Gerber file. Elektor GREEN and GOLD members can exclusively download these files for free as part of their membership. Gerber files allow a PCB to be produced on an appropriate device available locally, or through an online PCB manufacturing service.

Elektor recommends its business partner Eurocircuits as the company of choice for its own prototypes and volume production in selected cases.

Extra info, Update
In the components list, ‘R15’ should read ‘R9’. Capacitor C8 is listed as 4μF7 400V, but appears as 10μF/350V in the schematic. Either value will work as only little current is drawn from the high-voltage supply, and even 4μF7/180V will work in this circuit.

R1,R2,R3,R4 = 15k
R5 = 100k
R6 = 750k
R7 = 5k6
R8 = 150

R9,R13,R14 = 10k
R10 = 68k
R11 = 22k
R12 = 1
C1 = 1000µF 25V
C2 = 470pF
C3 = 100nF
C4 = 470µF 16V
C5 = 470pF
C6 = 100nF
C7 = 100nF
C8 = 4.7µF 400V
C9 = 100nF
C10,C11 = 33pF
C12 = 10µF
L1,L2 = 330µH
D1,D2,D3,D4 = 1N4003
D5 = 1N5819
D6 = BYV26C
T1 = IRF820
T2,T3 = MPSA42
IC1 = 89C2051, programmed, order code 050018-41
IC2,IC3,IC4 = 74141
IC5,IC6 = MC34063
Q1 = 12.000MHz quartz crystal
AN1,AN2,AN3,AN4 = ZM1332
IC sockets: 2 off DIL 8-pin; 3 off DIL 16-pin; 1 off DIL 20-pin
PCB, ref. 050018-1 from ThePCBShop
Source and hex code files, free download

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