Nixie Tubes Are Hard to Use, but These Lixies Are Easy!

Like any hot-blooded tech-enthusiast, you probably love Nixie tubes. They look cool, have a retro appeal, and are very readable—what’s not…

Cameron Coward
2 years ago

Like any hot-blooded tech-enthusiast, you probably love Nixie tubes. They look cool, have a retro appeal, and are very readable—what’s not to like? But, as I’m sure you know if you’ve ever tried to work with them, they’re difficult to use.

Driving a Nixie tube requires high voltages, which can be dangerous. On top of that, controlling them isn’t exactly intuitive compared to our modern—usually LED—components. So, what’s a nostalgic maker to do?

If you don’t mind shelling out the cash, you can buy these Lixies from Connor Nishijima. They’re $38 a piece, but that’s still cheaper than comparably-sized Nixie tubes. Even better, they use addressable WS2812B LEDs, so using them is easy to do from any modern microcontroller.

The Lixies simulate the vintage look of Nixie tubes by refracting light from one of 10 etched acrylic panes. Each of those panes is laser-etched with a single numeric digit, and when they’re edge-lit with one of those WS2812B LEDs the digit becomes visible. That’s all packaged to look like a traditional Nixie tube, and is ready to drop into your next project.

Personally, I think a 7-segment style setup would be more efficient and versatile. But, Nishijima’s design does make the each of the digits look very nice!

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