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Why Smartsockets ?

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  • Chris
    I am cross posting this message from Neonixie-L following the suggestion that it may be relevant, and it explains the logic behind Smartsockets. A copy of this
    Message 1 of 1 , May 15, 2008
      I am cross posting this message from Neonixie-L following the
      suggestion that it may be relevant, and it explains the logic behind
      Smartsockets. A copy of this is now in the files section to.

      Re: Smartsockets?

      --- In NEONIXIE-L@yahoogroups.com, "Marco Conforto" <cagamba@...>
      > Can someone explain to me what "Smartsockets" is all about? I can't
      > seem to figure it out from their webgroup, the whole thing seems
      > subjective to me, and not straight up like our group here. Dunno,
      > perhaps all my nixie-related neurons are already taken by Neonixie!

      It quite possibly is subjective. Perhaps if I give a brief explanation
      of why there are Smartsockets you might be able to cut us some
      slack :-)

      I wanted to make a B7971 clock. I wanted it to display time, and
      I wanted there to be transition effects. I wanted to be able to
      each character at different times. In my first version I tried to make
      the effects work independently and use different fonts in different
      positions. But trying to do that with four tubes and one
      microcontroller was beyond me.

      I suppose the project just grew to the point where I thought it would
      be easier to have a unique driver for multisegment devices. You have
      shift registers, you have bcd to 7-segment converters, but what I
      wanted was a driver which I just needed to send a character to and it
      displayed it. I didn't want to bother having to decode the segment
      pattern , simply send an ascii character over a very simple network,
      using a standard protocol, and the tube displays it, why not ?

      Rather than try to build something all based around a single
      controller, driving four tubes I bit the bullet and assigned one
      controller to each tube, and then set about fitting as many features
      I could in order to justify the controller.

      I also wanted to make it simple for others to interface to the B7971
      tube. A Four digit B7971 clock/four letter word, with effects and
      different fonts is not the sort of project you can expect to be
      succesful with immediately if you have very little experience, but
      people can manage to program a device to output serial data one
      character at a time. It couldn't be easier in some languages, such as
      Basic, and in assembler it is only slightly more complicated.

      The other thing which influenced me was the fact that like a lot of
      other people took advantage of deals to buy B7971's in batches of ten
      or twelve. That's two and a half four digit clocks, or it's two sixes
      and so on. Being able to configure a device to the number of tubes you
      actually own is something which I found to be very convenient. I had
      twelve tubes, therefore I wanted to make a twelve tube display !

      I've since had to sell some tubes to release some cash, so I sold them
      with Smartsockets already attached to people who were able to split my
      larger display into a couple of smaller displays, with total ease.

      I am in the process of considering making them a device which drives
      two or four tubes, because most people make displays with even numbers
      of tubes, single sockets might be slightly over-engineering things.

      The other reason which I wanted to develop the software for was to
      a serial device driver to control lighting. At some point in the
      I intend to make a large Christmas light display and will ultimately
      use Smartsockets to drive the triacs and SSR's which will be required.
      Because the Smartsocket concept is expandable up to 255 elements, a
      large array of different displays and devices can be controlled just
      sending commands over the two-wire serial bus, either from a
      microcontroller, a PDA or PC. I could use a DMX device, but I think it
      would be too expensive for my budget.

      It wasn't intended to be a business, and you are quite right to think
      they are subjective, but I made them to fulfill what I considered to
      a clear need to make a device which could vastly simplify interfacing
      with multisegment tubes. It opened up a lot of options in terms of
      making a display which could be put under complete serial bus control.

      Sorry if this got a bit lengthy,

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