A Clock For 2023 - Too Good To Miss
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Sunday, 03 September 2023

On this holiday weekend we take a break and look back at the wonder of off-the-wall clocks because it was too good to miss.

I have to admit I have a small passion for freaky clocks. They used to be hard to make, but now with powerful single-board computers and low cost displays they are not so difficult and the fun is inventing a new way to show the time.

Originally published 5th March 2023

Perhaps my interest in DIY clocks comes from my early years building simple time keepers from discrete integrated circuits and before that transistors. It also seems I can't get away from time - I've just finished working on an SNTP time synchronizer for a Pico W, a problem you might have imagined to have been already solved by now. Even so I have seen enough ways to count the days and so my interest is piqued by how it is displayed.

So imagine my smile when I saw this Periodic Table clock. It combines everyone's love of chemistry's greatest achievement with my own fancy for clocks. It displays the time by showing you three elements and their atomic numbers gives you the time.



is 14:22:29. The colors used tell you which element is the hours, minutes and seconds. If an element needs to be used more than once in a time it shows in both colors. If there are thee numbers the same then only a single element displays and it is obvious what the time is.  You can see it in action below:

Periodic Table Clock from Görkem BOZKURT on Vimeo.


The construction is fairly straightforward as long as you have a 3D printer to create the case. The stl files are available for download. The electronics are an Arduino Nano with a RTC module. The lights are implemented as a WS2812B LED Strip and this  makes programming easy as the entire strip of LEDs behaves like a shift register.

If I was implementing it I might use a Pico W and use its built-in RTC and my latest SNTP code to set it accurately. I might also be tempted to put LEDs behind all of the elements and implement some interesting options such as showing all non-metals and the different groups. Once you have the construction why not make full use of it?

The second clock that caught my attention is more innovative in the way that it creates the display. Sliding grids are driven by small stepper motors so that they slide up and down in a mesmerizing display.

There are two sliders for each digit, making a total of eight stepper motors. You could probably use small steppers removed from old floppy drives - "what are they?" I hear you ask - if you are prepared to do some customization. The steppers are controlled by an Arduino Mega and ULN2003 drivers. Again a 3D printer is needed to fabricate the sliders and the stl files are available.

Any better ideas?

Clocks are still fascinating after all their development from gear wheels to computers.

  • Harry Fairhead has a hardware background having worked with microprocessors and electronics in general, for many years. He is the author of books on the Raspberry Pi and the Raspberry Pi Pico, see side panel, the most recent of which are the C and MicroPython versions of  Programming the Raspberry Pi Pico/W. The SNTP time synchronizer referred to is included in Master Raspberry Pi Pico: WiFi with LwIP & mbedtls, ISBN:9781871962810, due to be published March 2023.



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Last Updated ( Sunday, 03 September 2023 )