Vacuum Fluorescent Display tubes were made during the Cold War in the former Soviet Union and are considered to be the predecessors of the LED display. As if this wasn’t reason enough to use VFD tubes in the making of any vintage clock, the technology itself is as fascinating as the posh glow of the digits.
In fact, are you familiar with the donkey in Buridan’s paradox – the one that starved because it found itself at an equal distance between two identical piles of hay and couldn’t decide which to eat? That will be you as you stare at the Chroniker and try to decide what part of it is the coolest.
Of course, we don’t want you to starve to death, so make sure you grab a snack before you sit down. Or just ask your girlfriend for a sandwich.
Not yet familiar with the Vacuum Fluorescent Display technology? Shame on you, because you really can’t appreciate the beauty of this vintage timepiece without knowing exactly what makes it tick. Thankfully we’ve got you covered.
Also known as an ice tube indicator, the vacuum fluorescent display is commonly used in consumer-electronics equipment like car radios, microwave ovens or cassette recorders.
The first Vacuum Fluorescent Display ever made was Philips’ 1959 single indication DM160, while the first multi-segment VFD was the Japanese 1962 single-digit, seven-segment device. By the late 1980s, hundreds of millions of Vacuum Fluorescent Display units were being made every year. Were they as popular then as they are fascinating today? You bet they were.
So how does it work, you ask? Somewhat similar to a cathode ray tube, but operating at much lower voltages, a VFD functions on the principle of cathodoluminescence. Each VFD tube is a triode vacuum tube made up of a mesh control grid, a phosphor-coated anode and a cathode filament that emits bombarding electrons at the latter. Finally, the whole thing is contained in a high pressure glass enclosure filled with inert gases.
As the electrons hit the phosphor, voilà! The coolest, most mesmerizing green-blue glow you’ll ever set your eyes on.
Unlike an LCD (liquid crystal display), the Vacuum Fluorescent Display emits a high-contrast, bright light and can support display elements of various colors and shapes. That’s up to 35,000 cd/m² of spellbinding luminance for some experimental models! In other words, if you wake up in the middle of the night, the Chroniker will stand out from the pitch-black darkness and tell you the time. If you wake up in the middle of the day and the bright sun is coming through the window, the Chroniker’s got your back still.
No, it won’t be able to transport you back in time and you’ll still be late for work or classes. But at least you won’t feel as bad about it, because you’ll know that no matter what happens, this beautiful VFD tube clock will be waiting for you back home.