Former Soviet Union engineers really knew how to produce some futuristic-looking displays when the Cold War was in full swing — the ALS340A and ALS328 are interesting, to say the least, but the 49OIP1 (or к490ип1) takes the cake when it comes to tiny LED screens.
The single-digit display measures just 2.5mm in length and were built using a decimal counter and seven-segmented encoder etched onto a single die. The 49OIP1 features a max counting speed of 1MHz and can be chained together with multiple LEDs. Considering this display is incredibly small and widely used in military and avionics applications, it required an external bubble magnifier to make it easier to read.
Surprisingly, you can still manage to find these from time to time on eBay and even connect them to microcontrollers for any number of project applications. Blogger dotDisplay was able to achieve a connection through experimentation using a Cypress CY8CKIT PSoC kit.
He found that by connecting the pins to the PSoC’s GPIO, he could control the display’s count timer and toggle it until the desired number was displayed. dotDisplay also managed to learn how to turn off the display during the count as well as how to stack multiple 49OIP1 LEDs using a single pin.
It always seems like a magical endeavor when old technology gets integrated into new hardware, and while there is an abundant supply of Nixie tube projects (still great BTW), it seems like these old Soviet displays are undercut from the engineering and maker communities. It will be interesting to see if anyone capitalizes on this old hardware and what they will do with it.