Project Inspirations | Kevin Martin

For me, the concept of “time” is pretty fundamental to my outlook on life. The way people value time and who (or what) they give their time to say a lot about a person, and the variety of ways people spend it fascinates me. Athletes and artists dedicate the majority of their time to a skill, often times exclusively for the personal satisfaction it brings them. Others dedicate their time to excellence in academics or a career, and their life is truly lived with that goal before everything else. With every degree of the spectrum in between, though, one thing remains constant- the amount of time we have to spend is fixed, and unknown.

I have made multiple major life decisions (college…people…careers…) ultimately based on asking myself how I’d like spend my fixed (and unknown) amount of time, and have therefore developed a quirky fascination with clocks. When I heard the design constraints for this project were only “a change in time”, I knew my project would have something to do with a clock.

As an engineer, one of the most fascinating things to me is the amount of technology that has changed and evolved in an incredibly short amount of time- there were people alive when the Wright Brothers took the first jump from Earth, as well as when Neil Armstrong put the first footprint on the moon. The amount of explosive growth between “vintage” and “cutting edge” is mind blowing to me, and an aesthetic I really wanted to explore in this project.

So, I’ve got time and clocks, and a modern-vintage crossover aesthetic. With a little googling of outdated technology, I found these: Nixie Tubes.

Predominantly produced in the USSR, these bulbs have stacked, individual filaments. One anode is powered, and makes that “layer” illuminate. These were widely used on early electronics (Before 7-segment displays), as seen here:

Nixie Calculator (source:

By Hellbus – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

My goal with this project is to find some of these bulbs, and create a modern-aesthetic clock with this cold-war era technology. I’m really excited about the combination of these two, and can’t wait to get going!

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • […] Nixie Clock | Project Inspirations […]

  • Ashley Zimmerer
    February 29, 2016 9:54 am

    Those nixie tubes are so cool. I can’t wait to see what you do with them! Are you thinking of making a really big clock, or a compact one? I’ve seen pictures of ones people have made that count seconds, They look so cool, but they’re super bulky.

  • Really interesting idea. I didn’t realize that time is an unique concept to different people until your post. And I also think that the cold-war era aesthetics is really cool if you could really apply this to your final design.

  • Kevin this was a fun post to read. I really like your insight on how different people value their time, and especially like your comment on the amount of time we have to spend being both fixed and unknown…This brings to mind some of the “Cirque du Soleil” performances I have seen. You should look them up; maybe some of their setups and designs could be good additional inspiration for your aesthetic.


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