Contributed by Geoff Byers, Milwaukee Electronics
A week ago, Screaming Circuits posted a photo of my father’s side project, the Star Chronometer. His invention is a clock that uses bulbs placed in certain areas on a printed circuit board to tell time. I got to spend some time with him over the phone to learn more about how he came up with the idea for his clock.
“The original idea came to me over 30 years ago when I saw a strange looking clock in Chicago at the shopping mall, Water Tower Place, it was sitting in the window and caught my eye. I stood there for some time trying to figure it out. I eventually bought it and has been sitting in my living room ever since” said Jack.
Soon after purchasing the clock he noticed that the bulbs put out a lot of heat and burned out quickly. It was not very efficient so he decided to use the basic visual ideas from the original clock and make it more of a digital clock that anyone could read.
When starting the project, he was using visual basic software tool to figure out the size of the bulbs, colors that he wanted, and the location. This took him awhile to get everything right. After he got the visuals down, he approached some local businesses to have some of the molds created. In the early design stages, he wanted the case to feel like you were looking at the stars from an airplane or a spaceship. That is where it got its name the Star Chronometer. Jack also wanted to incorporate the actual time so anyone who did not know how to read the clock was able to know the time.
“At the same time, the molds were being created I was talking to people who were going to produce the PCB for me. I had a good idea on the design and the components I would need. During that time, I did not know what processor I was going to use for the circuitry but ended up with a microchip processor. I soldered all the components into place and wrote all the coding” said Jack
After selecting one of the molds and working with the PCB group Jack bought enough supplies to build over 25 clocks. He eventually built a couple and gave away some to close friends and clients. “I had a lot of interest to keep building more but I have a fulltime job. It was fun project, but I didn’t have the time” said Jack.
For me, as his kid, it was weird having these inventions throughout the house while growing up because I couldn’t read them at all. Even after he explained it to me several times, I still had a hard time putting everything together. But since starting my new job as the Demand Manager at Screaming Circuits a couple of months ago I wanted to learn how to read these clocks and the PCB design that brings them to life.
If you have an interesting projecting that you’re currently working on that incorporates PCB design please feel free to reach out at gbyers@MilwaukeeElectronics.com.