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Building a digital clock

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by Ali8bongo, Jun 29, 2012.

  1. Ali8bongo

    Ali8bongo

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    Jun 2, 2012
    Hi
    I am pretty new to electronics and have just ordered my first basic electronics kit, but I was wondering how hard it would be to build a basic digital clock, no alarms or anything like that just one that can tell the time and you can set the Time on it, I was thinking of making it with 4 seven segment displays because I think that it would be easier than an LCD screen. I have a couple of questions about one of these though:
    What components would I need, for instance seven segment display, switches e.t.c?
    What skills would I need for instance microchip programming?
    Would this be too difficult for a beginner to build?
    Would a seven segment display be easier than an LCD screen?
    Would one of these http://www.rapidonline.com/Electronic-Components/Timekeeper-NVRAM-and-serial-RTC-72963 be required?
    Thanks in advance :)
     
  2. CocaCola

    CocaCola

    3,635
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    Apr 7, 2012
    How deep do you want to get? The jump to micro controllers can be expensive and have a decent learning curve... You have to decide if taking the 'easy' route like Arduino or PICaxe is for you, or if you should devote your money and time into a full fledged micro working environment...

    Personally I think getting an already configured clock kit would be a good place to start with a digital clock for a newbie...

    http://www.sparkfun.com/products/10930

    This will allow you to focus on soldering skills and assembly skills... The only change I would do is to socket the AVR chip, for removal later... Then if you want to experiment you can remove the chip, start writing your own code (or altering the existing code) and flash the chip and test it on a proven platform... Of course this requires you to take the next step into micro controllers...

    It's not hard to make your own, someone experienced with the tools on hand could code and build a clock in a few hours time... But, it would likely take a newbie weeks or even months to do the same...
     
  3. Ali8bongo

    Ali8bongo

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    Jun 2, 2012
    Thanks for the quick reply, I think that I should definetly practise my soldering skills first. 3 questions though firstly, so to make a basic clock I need code a microchip or use a audio a and I couldn't just use one of these http://www.rapidonline.com/Electronic-Components/Timekeeper-NVRAM-and-serial-RTC-72963 ?
    Secondly I already know how to program basic things on visual basic but do I need to learn c# to be able to program microchips? Finally is programming a microchip completely different to programming a computer program?
    Thanks :)
     
  4. BobK

    BobK

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    Jan 5, 2010
    It is not completely different. You will not find c# on a micro. C, assembler and basic are the most commonly used languages.

    Bob
     
  5. CocaCola

    CocaCola

    3,635
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    Apr 7, 2012
    If you want a precise clock it's best to use a RTC chip like you have linked, they keep better time but a micro based clock isn't all that bad and teaches you how timers work... The DS3234 RTC chip seems to dominate the scene right now, or is at least one of the most popular that you will find examples of on the net easily...

    No you don't need to learn C to use micros, if you want to stick with basic there are several options, it's my preferred choice as well... You can look at these compilers there are pros and cons to all of them, again my preferred choice is PicBasic Pro but I have and do use the others on occasion... Google these up to find more info...

    PicBasic Pro
    Proton Basic
    Swordfish Basic
    Mikro Basic

    Those are the top BASIC compilers for PIC chips, there are some for AVRs as well... C dominates the industry even more so with AVRs then PICs...

    PicAxe also used Basic, but it's a limited development platform, if you stick with it you will outgrow PicAxe chips very quickly but they offer an entry level low cost platform... The same with Arduinos, but they will be C...

    Programming a micro is easier then a computer, you don't have to deal with half the stuff you do when programming a computer, it's a small compact system so there is a lot less to deal with...
     
  6. BobK

    BobK

    7,645
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    Jan 5, 2010
    Well, you do have to deal with other things, like being able to read a datasheet, setting up configuration registers, and how many PC programmers have ever written an interrupt handler?

    So, it is different in details, but the overlap (programming logic) is large and the same.

    Bob
     
  7. Ali8bongo

    Ali8bongo

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    Jun 2, 2012
    Thanks for all your replys
    So if I wanted to I could make a precise clock with having to know how to program micro controllers by using an RTC.
    But if I wanted to learn programming I could program a microchip to do the same job (but less precisely) using a basic language.
    Is that correct thanks :)
     
  8. CocaCola

    CocaCola

    3,635
    5
    Apr 7, 2012
    You still need something to read the data the RTC chip spits out...

    Pretty much...
     
  9. KrisBlueNZ

    KrisBlueNZ Sadly passed away in 2015

    8,393
    1,266
    Nov 28, 2011
    As CocaCola says, an RTC won't drive a display. They just keep track of the time, using a watch crystal and a backup battery, and can be interrogated by software (software running on a microcontroller or processor).
    Usually a digital clock is implemented using a microcontroller, or a dedicated IC such as the Sanyo LM8560 (now probably way obsolete). The LM8560 was known in its day as "LSI" (large-scale integration), although in comparison to modern large-scale integrated ICs it's about as complicated as a light bulb!
    You can drive seven-segment displays as a clock using discrete logic - cascaded counters with BCD-to-seven-segment decoders, but this requires probably a dozen ICs, which is why a microcontroller or application-specific LSI or ASIC is used in practice.
    There are several companies providing designs and kits for clocks using various technologies, such as www.kabtronics.com which has several designs of varying complexity representing different eras in electronic history. They sell kits too. They're probably not cheap, and some of the designs require a lot of time to build too. I'm not recommending them - I have no experience or connection with them - but have a look and use your friend Google.
    When I was young, I designed and built (with two friends) a digital clock that worked in both normal time and "decimal" time - ten hours a day, 100 minutes an hour, 100 seconds a minute, I think. One of the friends got the idea from a magazine. We implemented it in an old single-chip micro, the 63701 (Motorola 6800-based). The alarm sounded like an air-raid siren. That project was a lot of fun! The friend gave it to a girl he admired at the time, so I haven't seen it in 25 years! I wonder if it still works...
     
  10. Miguel Lopez

    Miguel Lopez

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    Jan 25, 2012
    I have build two digital clocks in the past using Soviet and Czeck TTL chips. Have you thought to use this type of devices, or CMOS equivalents?
     
  11. JHarmon

    JHarmon

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    0
    Jun 30, 2012
    ^ Like a boss :)
     
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