Binary Clock

Version 1

The first version of this project started in January 2018, and honestly, it wasn't very good. Earlier in the academic year, we were given Arduino kits as part of our course, and I figured doing a simple project like this would be a good learning opportunity.

Prototype Clock

Firstly, there was the issue of actually keeping time with an Arduino. To solve this I bought a DS1037 RTC (real time clock) module. This was the cheapest I could find (oh student life), and would later be an issue.

The second issue was the lack of available IO pins on the Arduino Uno. To display the time in binary, you need 6 bits for seconds, 6 bits for minutes, and 5 bits for hours, making a total of 17 bits/LEDs. For symmetry I went with a total 18. To run these from an Arduino I used shift registers, as this is what I had. This also ended being an issue later down the line. I also decided to add 2 buttons to set the time.

Once I got the initial prototype working, I purchased an Arduino Nano for compactness, and some blue LEDs for coolness. I then threw together a questionably fitting friction fit housing in Solidworks, and cut it out of MDF on the University laser cutter. As I didn't know any better, I had all the electronics on a breadboard, and the internals were generally a mess, but technically functioning.

Version 1 complete
Version 1 Clock at 11:32:55

To read it, the hours is the top row, minutes the middle row, and seconds the bottom row. LED on=1, LED off=0. Then just learn to read binary numbers, no big deal.

On first glance, version 1 seemed to work very well, the time was displayed correctly and could be adjusted, and seemed to keep time. However:

As university picked up again, I didn't have time to fix these. And so the clock was turned off, and put away and forgotten about for 3 years...

Version 2

3 Years and 4 house moves later, I found the old clock. We desparately needed some decoration in our living room so I figured it'd be a good chance to see how much I'd learned over the years. I kept the MDF housing, Arduino Nano, and the push buttons, but thats about all. The improvements were as follows:

While version 2 looks identical, it functions significantly better, as it doesn't drift, and the brightness is far less intrusive. We've used it as our living room clock for over a year now with no issues.

Version 2 complete
Version 2 Clock

Most importantly, at 22:15:09, it looks like a turtle. It is generally quite hypnotic to watch, as various patterns emerge. Because of this, it's ended up being quite the conversation starter.

Turtle time!
Turtle time!