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Mega Transistor Clock

Probably the biggest DIY electronic kit in the world. And you can have it too - see below! 👇

The article starts below the video.

This clock does not contain any integrated circuits and is designed by myself. All parts are common and easily obtainable. Also older parts pulled from old devices can find their place here if they are OK.

This construction is intended for medium-advanced electronics enthusiasts who already know how to solder, and can identify parts, their parameters and polarity.

The clock will surely draw attention of your visitors and will be a nice accessory of the room.

Parameters

  • Digital and binary time representation
  • 24-hour time format, blinking double dots (colons)
  • 2 push buttons for time setup (hours and minutes)
  • Crystal resonator as time base
  • Power supply: 5 V / 500 mA max.
  • 596 diodes and 221 transistors
  • PCB dimensions: 50 x 37 cm (V1) or 48.5 x 37 cm (V3) - height x width

Interactive part list is in file BOM.html and as a picture in Top.png. All files are available for download at the bottom of this page.

Circuit description

Detailed description, including the schematic, is in the documentation for download. The following is a block schematic (click to enlarge):

Mega Transistor Clock - block schematic

The sections are named the same as on the PCB - they are also highlighted on the PCB for easier orientation.

The oscillator is driven by a watch crystal of frequency 32.768 kHz, its output is similar to sine wave, but with some offset and unsuitable peak-to-peak levels. For further processing, it must be converted into logic levels (square wave 0 - 5 V) and that is the job of the Buffer and Shaper sections.

Following flip-flops divide the 32.768 kHz by two as many times as needed in order to obtain a 1 Hz signal that is used to count seconds.

Divider by 10 counts seconds, divider by 6 counts tens of seconds. Flip-flop outputs are connected to LEDs for binary time representation, and also to decoders. The decoders determine which segments of the display will light up in which state of the flip-flops.

Same goes for the sections to count minutes, but with a little difference - the push button for setup of minutes. When the button is pressed, minutes are clocked by a 2 Hz signal, otherwise they are clocked from the output of tens of seconds divider.

The sections to count hours and tens of hours are interconnected in such a way that they count from 0 to 23. Again, there is a push button to set up the hours, that works the same way as for minutes.

Reset circuit is also present so that the clock starts from 00:00:00 and not some random state.

Dividers by 6, 10, and 24, are in fact sequential logic circuits formed from flip-flops and logic gates made only from transistors and diodes. The following pictures are from a program called Logisim - a simulator of logic circuits.

Divider by 10

Divider by 10

 

Divider by 6

Divider by 6

 

Divider by 24

Divider by 24

 

The following are logic gates consisting of transistors and diodes:

Flip-flop

Flip-flop

 

AND gate

AND gate

 

OR gate

OR gate - both types are used in this construction

 

All detailed information about the circuit, recommended order of steps to finish the construction, and various good advices, are in the documentation for download below.

The initial version of the PCB (V1) has two shortcomings - 1) missing protection resistors 150 R for the displays on PCB, that's why V1 PCBs are sold with SMD resistors already soldered, from the back side where possible, and 2) missing capacitors for push button debounce, which should be added, however, the clock will also work without them. Details for both are included in the documentation.

Because of huge effort needed to design this clock, the PCB design is not public (but the schematic is, as it is important to debug the circuit if there are problems). Fabrication of the PCB is not cheap at all due to its very large dimensions.

The PCB can be bought directly from me. Below are always accurrate information about available stock and prices. In case of bigger demand, more PCBs will be made of later PCB versions. Also, sets of (new) parts are available. Shipping is paid by consignee and depends on total weight of the package and carrier. At a minimum, the shipping fees need to be paid in advance (COD is also possible). Carrier is Slovak Post (a.k.a. snail mail) or Packeta. Shipping abroad is available as well. Local pickup is possible in Žilina, Slovakia. If you are interested, send me an e-mail, and we will arrange the details.

  • PCB (V3 - black) - 130 € / pc - 8 in stock
  • PCB (V1 - green) with SMD resistors 150 R soldered - 90 € / pc - 1 in stock
  • Set of parts - 50 € / set - 9 in stock
  • Completed and working with EU adapter (V1) - 300 €

The set of parts consists of the following:

  • NPN transistors (208 pcs)
  • PNP transistors (13 pcs)
  • diodes 1N4148 (596 pcs)
  • electrolytic capacitors 10 μF / 16 V (10 pcs)
  • electrolytic capacitors 1000 μF / 16 V (2 pcs)
  • ceramic capacitors 100 pF (105 pcs)
  • ceramic capacitors 22 pF (2 pcs)
  • ceramic capacitors 100 nF (12 pcs)
  • ceramic capacitors 22 nF (2 pcs)
  • ceramic capacitor 1 nF
  • resistors 150 Ω (66 pcs) - only for V3 - V1 comes with resistors already soldered (SMD)
  • resistors 1 kΩ (74 pcs)
  • resistors 100 kΩ (144 pcs)
  • resistors 10 kΩ (165 pcs)
  • resistors 1 MΩ (2 pcs)
  • resistor 10 MΩ
  • resistor 470 kΩ
  • crystal resonator 32.768 kHz
  • display 38.1 mm (1.5 in) red (6 pcs)
  • LED diodes 5 mm red 20 mcd (24 pcs)
  • radial choke 120 μH or similar
  • push buttons 6 mm for PCB (2 pcs)
  • pin header 1x20, pin spacing 2,54 mm
  • 2-lead PCB screw terminal block

Changelog (a.k.a. what's new)

Changes in version 3 (V3) compared to V2:

  • black PCB instead of green
  • re-routing of some traces to 3rd display
  • slight move of 150 R resistors away from board edge
  • reduced clearance of front copper area to 0.3 mm
  • vertical distance of holes is larger by 0.2 mm

Changes in version 2 (V2) compared to V1:

  • height of the PCB made smaller by 1.5 cm to not exceed maximum package dimensions when sending by certain carriers
  • added protection resistors (150 Ω) for displays both into the schematic and the PCB
  • added button debounce capacitors (22 nF) both into the schematic and the PCB
  • added one mounting hole
  • aligned mounting hole spacing to whole millimeters
  • removed top GND layer in the oscillator section

Comments (22)

:} lol :D =) :o) :B 8-D :P :-)) :-< ;) :-/ :( :.( O.o ;o) :-* 8-| :-| 8)
Gabi   19th May 2024 10:28 am
Very exciting project in today's microcontroller world. I have always been an admirer of watches and this watch is fantastic. Thanks Mek for the wiring diagram. I will when I retire, although that will be 60 years from now. :-))
Mek   2nd March 2024 8:03 pm
Thank you, unfortunately, no SMD version is planned. It would need a complete redesign, which is a big amount of work. After all, manipulation with THT components is easier.
Can I haz SMD?   2nd March 2024 7:40 pm
This is über-awesome! Hoping for an SMD version that I can assemble, as I'm a bit over through-hole myself. 8-| Will definitely be checking back!
In any case, great work!
Mek   31st January 2024 6:46 pm
Hi mjpetreycik,
I wrote you an e-mail to investigate the details. In the meantime, I made some adjustments to links on this web page, hopefully it mitigates the issue.
mjpetreycik@gmail.com   30th January 2024 10:22 pm
Hi! I just received the mega transistor clock. It took 10 days to get here! I am impressed! Thank you! The quality of the components is excellent along with that massive circuit board. However, I am having some trouble downloading the manual. What am I doing wrong?
Mek   6th January 2024 12:35 pm
Hi, yes, smaller is correct. You can even omit C203 as a start, this is what I also did in the past when I had the same problem.
pxpep   6th January 2024 12:24 pm
Hi again.
By adjusting the trim capacitor C204 the fastest I can make the clock run is still 4 seconds to slow every 24 hours. You suggest to experiment with C202 and C203.
My question now is: shall I make them smaller or bigger (capacity) to make the clock tick faster? With my limited (but growing) knowledge in electronics I would say that smaller is the solution. Please enlighten me 8)
Mek   17th December 2023 1:23 pm
pxpep, congratz on finishing the kit. I am glad that you like it.
Yes, the display pins are not perfect, but it is still OK. I will make it better in future PCBs. :)
pxpep   17th December 2023 12:19 pm
I received my kit 7th December 2023 and yesterday (very late), 8 days later, it was finished. It has been a pleasure to build. Everything fitted perfectly together. I had to bend the legs on the display modules slightly though but I think that's within tolerable tolerances. All the instructions was very nice. Especially I enjoyed the "BOM" which maked it so much easier to find where every component should be. I would like a cad drawing of the PCB with the placement of all the holes, LED and the display modules to make it easier to make some kind of a box to put it in but I think I'll manage :)
I loved to build this kit and I reccommend everyone that think they can manage to build it to give it a chance and go for it!!
pxpep   7th December 2023 6:31 pm
I have just received a complete kit (V3) and everything looks amazing. I¨m looking forward to begin the build proces O.o
Mek   22nd November 2023 5:12 pm
Hi 172pilot, thank you for your comment. I was considering using the mains frequency as time base but decided to use a crystal. Not everywhere in the world is the mains frequency so accurate, and also it is different, 50/60 Hz... And using already rectified 5 V power brick for supply is easier :) Anyway, the crystal is a watch crystal, also used in wristwatches, clocks, computer mainboards... so its accuracy should be reasonable anyway.
172pilot   22nd November 2023 4:24 pm
This is amazing! Great work! I am in the middle of trying to teach myself circuit board design software by creating a binary clock, but I am using 74 series TTL and that is hard enough. I can't imagine doing THIS!! One idea for your "v3" clock - Make it powered by an AC wall wart so that you can use the zero crossings on the AC for the timebase.. That should make it quite accurate. Make sure to include switch selectable for 50/60hz! Great job!!
Mek   21st November 2023 8:35 pm
Hi Theunis,
sorry, I wouldn't like to give more design stuff away than I already do...
I also don't think it's feasible to use universal board for this construction, as you need to use some parts with specific pin pitches... and there would be thousands of wires, you don't want to do that :)
Theunis Cronje from South Africa   21st November 2023 8:25 pm
Hi there.
Nice looking clock 👌
nIs it possible for me to buy your V3 Bottom png file? For tbr v3🙏
We here in south africa will have to use predrilled veroboard for the bottom layout 🙏
We do not have fancy printers. We will make this with joined veroboard and wires.
Kind Regards Theunis Cronje from South Africa 🇿🇦
Mek   16th October 2023 10:18 pm
Hi, Geert,
unfortunately, the PCB design is proprietary - it took me a few months to design and was a lot of work... I can't publish any gerber files, sorry. I hope you understand.
Geert   16th October 2023 9:14 pm
Dear sir,

Im'busy with designing this print myself. Could you provide me with your gerber files?

Thanks in advance,
Kind regards Geert Zijlstra :)
Mek   3rd March 2023 12:47 pm
Ahoj, vdaka za pochvalu.
Moj prototyp sice nesluzi ako ucebna pomocka - nie som ucitel - ale u inych ludi by urcite mohla. Ja to mam skor ako zaujimavu dekoraciu v byte :)
Co sa tyka presnosti - ked sa nastavi oscilator pomocou kapacitneho trimra na citaci alebo osciloskope na 32,768 kHz co najpresnejsie, tak s presnostou hodin nie su problemy. U mna bezali aj pol roka v kuse bez nutnosti dodatocneho nastavovania. Potom vypadla elektrina, tak som ich musel nastavit znova :)
Cize, presnost hodin zavisi od presnosti oscilatora, ked si da na tom clovek pri stavbe zalezat, tak aj hodiny budu presne. Pisem to aj v dokumentacii-navode na stavbu.
senegalec1942@yahoo.de   3rd March 2023 12:43 pm
Pekne urobená konštrukcia , autor musel stráviť nad návrhom a realizáciou kvantum času.
Páči sa mi to.
Zrejme hodiny slúžia ako učebná pomôcka, ktorá názorným spôsobom predstavuje mládeži a záujemcom princip činnosti a zobrazenia.
Pred mnohými rokmi tiež som zaoberal takýmito hodinami, ale boli osadené integrovanými obvodmi domácej čs výroby. Jedine kryštál bol CCCP produkcie, vo vákuu a v tvare elektronky, kmitočet 1 MHz.
A s tým súvisí aj moja otázka:
Ako často je potrebné nastavovať čas a aká je chyba zobrazenia v závislosti na čase.
Mek   1st February 2023 2:31 pm
Ah, that one is on page 9 of Schema.pdf
Seems like KiCad messed up pages when I exported the schematic to PDF.
Yoyo   1st February 2023 2:27 pm
Thanks for response 8) . But i mean (sorry i forgot it) the second diviser by 10 just after 1 hz. I dont see the schema of diviser with 1 hz input and q60/61 62 62 output.
Mek   1st February 2023 12:50 pm
Hi Yoyo, the initial cascade of flip-flop fircuits is seconds divider (page 3 in Schema.pdf). The clock signal of 1 Hz is directly used to drive the seconds. This is then divided by 10 for tens of seconds, then divided again for minutes etc.
Yoyo   1st February 2023 12:45 pm
Hi.

I cant find schema of second divisder in the pdf of all schéma. Maybe i mistakeb something

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