IN17x7 Nixie Clock User Manual (Hardware Rev B / Firmware Version 1.4)

Hardware Rev: B
Firmware Version: 1.4

Last Modified: [last_modified]


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Greetings ! And thank you for your interest in the Cogwheel Nixie System. This document is intended for the end-user of the device. It will describe how to setup, configure, and operate the device. More detailed information on the inner-workings will be found elsewhere. This document decribes the IN17x7 Series 1 version shown at the top of this document. As the firmware is upgradeable, it is important to check for updates


Quick Start (for the impatient)

POWER UP: Find the power socket and wall adapter. Plug them in. The clock will turn on and start displaying time. SETTING TIME: Find the SET, UP, and DOWN buttons. Press and hold SET and release when the display blinks. Now, press UP and DOWN as necessary to adjust the time. Holding UP or DOWN will advance time faster. When the correct time is reached, press SET and the clock will resume normal operation.



Nixie tubes operate at voltages which can electrocute. If you disassemble the device for any reason, do not handle the circuit board with power applied.


By purchasing this device, you release the manufacturer, seller, and any of their suppliers or affiliates from any and all legal liabilities with respect to use, inability to use, or personal or property damages stemming from purchase and use of this device.


The nixie tubes used are Russian “New Old Stock”. At least 20 years old. While they are hand-picked for consistency, there will still be some amount of variation in appearance. The same is true for the enclosures; They are built in small batches and finished by hand, so there will be some variations.


Nixie tubes are essentially neon lights with 10 or more individual elements each shaped like a number, letter symbol or segment stacked front to back inside the tube. Nixie tubes were used during the 1960’s and 1970s, and are considered obsolete and no longer manufactured. All tubes are typically New Old Stock (NOS), or salvaged from equipment. This clock utilizes IN17x7 tubes from the former Soviet Unions. They were most likely destined for cold-wa era military equipment. More info can be obtained by google, or visiting the Wikipedia page


  • 7 tubes allows time to be displayed accurate to one-tenth of a second
  • Time-keeping accurate to within 1 second per month
  • Time, Date and configuration is maintained across power failures
  • Automatic Daylight Savings Time adjustment
  • Month, Day and Year display
  • Alarm with snooze function
  • USB interface to allow control from PC and upgrade of firmware
  • Daily display shutdown / start-up times
  • Adjustable Brightness
  • Optional periodic chime on the hour, half-hour or quarter hour
  • Cross-fade (next digit is lit before previous digit extinguished)
  • Transition effects: Fade down/up, ‘Slot Machine’, Curtain Wipe, Random Wipe

Configuration and Control using the Buttons

The following diagram shows the location of the connectors and




In North America, the clock ships with a ‘wall-wart’ power supply. If a wall-wart was not supplied, the clock requires a 12VDC at a minimum of 120ma with negative on the outer conductor of the connector. The barrel connector is a very common 2.5mm x 5.5mm variety. Attaching the power is straightforward; Simply connect the wall wart’s barrel connector to the corresponding connector on the clock, connect the wall wart to the power outlet.


When the clock powers up, it will go through a power-on-self-test routine which should complete within 5 seconds. The clock will then enter normal operation.


If any button is briefly pressed and released, the clock will cycle between showing the current month and day, the year, and turning off the display. Pressing once more will return the clock to normal operation. The sequence of operation is shown in the following state diagram:




Setting the Time

While the clock is displaying time press and hold SET for at least 2 seconds. When the display blinks, release the button. The clock will now display what was the current time but it will not be changing.

To increase the time on the display, press the UP button. To decrease the time, press DOWN. If you press and hold either UP or DOWN the rate of time change will gradually speed up.

When the display shows the proper time, press the SET button. The clock will return to normal operation with the new time.

The best technique is to set the time against a very accurate source such as a PC clock synchronized via the Internet. Set the clock for a few seconds before the current time. When the time source and the clock match, press SET. The clock begins to keep time the moment the SET button is pressed.

The following diagram depicts how to set the time:


Setting Other Configuration Parameters

The procedure starts the same way as setting the time; While the clock is displaying time press and hold SET for at least 2 seconds. When
the display blinks, release the button. Now press set once more; You should seethe following display:

The two digit number on the left is the option number, on the right is its value. Pressing the UP or DOWN buttons will adjust the value,
and pressing SET will advance to the next option number. At any point if you wish to exit SET mode, press and hold SET for at least two seconds and the clock will return to normal display mode. The following digram depicts the overall flow;


Configuration Option List


 Alarm Hours


 Alarm Mins


 12/24 Hour Mode






 Day of Month


 Day of Week




 Cross Fade


 Date Order


 Transition Effect


 Wipe Style


 Wipe Rate


 Display Cycle




 On Time


 Off Time


 DST Enable


 DST Active


 DST Start day of week count


 DST Start day of week


 DST Start month


 DST End day of week count


 DST End day of week


 DST End month


Back lights


Configuration Parameters Description

01          Alarm Hours

Range: 0-23. If alarm hours and minutes are both set to 0 the alarm is disabled. Alarm must be set using 24 hour terms even if the clock is to display in 12 hour mode

02          Alarm Mins

Range: 1-59. If alarm hours and minutes are both set to 0 the alarm is disabled. Alarm must be set using 24 hour terms even if the clock is to display in 12 hour mode

03          12/24 Hour Mode

Select 0 for 12 hour mode, 1, for 24 hour mode. (Note: on the IN17x1 Series 1 enclosure that the PM indicator LED is not exposed.

04          Year

Range: 2000-2099

05          Month

Range: 1-12

06          Day of Month

Range: 1-31

07          Day of Week

Range: 1-7. 1=Sunday.

08          Brightness

Range: 0-15 (brightest). Set to minimum value that still provides acceptable brightness to maximize nixie tube life.

09          Cross Fade

Cross-fade is a pleasing effect when the next symbol in a tube is lit before the previous one extinguishes. Set this parameter to 0 for off, 1 for on.

10          Date Order

0: Displays Date in the following order: mm dd, then yyyy.
1: Displays Date in the following order: yyyy mm dd

11          Transition Effect

Affects how the display changes from showing time to showing date and back;

0 None – No special transition is applied
1 Blink – Display blinks briefly during transition
2 Fade –  Display fades during transition
3 Wipe Via Off – Display transitions like a curtain to off, then again to on
4 Wipe slot – Display transitions to a rapidly changing ‘slot machine’ effect

12          Wipe Style

When the Transition Effect parameter is set a Wipe Type (3 or 4), Wipe style controls how the wipe occurs;

0 Wipe from Right to Left
1 Wipe From Left to Right
2 Toggle Direction Right to Left, then Left to Right alternately
3 Transition tubes in random order

13          Wipe Rate

When the Transition Effect parameter is set a Wipe Type (3 or 4), Wipe Rate controls the speed of the transition; 1 is the slowest setting, 8 is the fastest.



14          Display Cycle

Controls how often the display cycles between showing time and date;

0 Show time only
1 Once per minute
2 Twice per minute
3 Three times per minute
4 Five times per minute

15          Chime


0 Off
1 Hourly
2 Twice per hour (:00 & :30)
3 four times per hour (:00,:15,:30,:45)


16          On Time

17          Off Time

Range: 0-23

To maximize the life of the tubes, the display may be turned off for period during any 24 hour cycle; The clock will go off at the hour Off Time is set to, and turn back on when On Time is reached. If On Time and Off Time are the same, the display will stay on all the time.

18          DST Enable

0: Disable, 1:Enable

When enabled, the clock will automatically shift forward 1 hour at 02:00 on a specified Start Date, and shift backward 1 hour on a specified End Date (see below).

19          DST Active

0: Not Active, 1: Active

If Daylight Savings Time is currently in effect (summer time) set this t0 1. Otherwise set it to 0.

20         DST Start day of week count

Range: 1-4, 1:First week, 2:Second Week, 3:Third Week, 4:Last Week

21         DST Start day of week

Range: 1-7, 1:Sunday

22          DST Start month

Range: 1-12, 1:January

23          DST End day of week count

Range: 1-4, 1:First week, 2:Second Week, 3:Third Week, 4:Last Week

24          DST End day of week

Range: 1-7, 1:Sunday

25          DST End month

Range: 1-12, 1:January

Clocks are shipped for USA Daylight Savings time; This corresponds to the following:


Parameter Default Value Description
DST Start day of week count 2 Second Sunday in March
DST Start day of week 1
DST Start month 3
DST End day of week count 1 First Sunday in November
DST End day of week 1
DST End month 11

26          Back Light Enable

0:Disable , 1:Enable

 Resetting To Default Values

To reset the clock to default values do the following: Remove power, then hold down any button while reapplying power.  The clock will start up and begin to beep every few seconds. Press the UP button once. Verify that  the clock is now  repeating one short beep every few seconds. Now press SET. Verify the clock is now emitting the pattern: short beep – long beep – short beep. Now, remove and reply power. The clock will come up with all default settings. You will now need to set the time and date and other configuration parameters that you wish to.

Configuration and Control via the USB Interface

The clock is also equipped with a USB Serial hardware interface. The clock can be programmed and firmware updated via this interface.

Setting up the USB Interface on a PC

The following describes the basic procedure on a PC running Windows XP with an Internet connection.

When you connect the clock to the PC, the interface should auto-detect and try to find a driver. You will be asked if you wish to search for the driver automatically. Check this box and click next. The system should search for the driver and install it. You should then see a pop-up from your taskbar tray that says the hardware is ready to use.


If this procedure fails, the device driver may be downloaded from .

Setting up the USB Interface on other Operating Systems

The USB Serial chip used is the FT232R from . You can visit their site to download drivers for other operating systems. The VCP version of the driver is recommended.

Connecting to the clock using terminal emulator software

One the USB Serial driver is installed, any terminal emulator program can be used to communicate with the clock.

On a PC, You need to open Control Panel->System->Hardware->Device Manager. Under Ports (COM & LPT), you should see a new entry “USB Serial Port (COMx)” where x is the port number. Take note of this number. You may then use either the Hyperterminal application or a third party terminal emulator to access the clock’s command line interpreter (CLI). Set to the Application to the following:

COM Port Number The one found in the step above
Bit Rate 57600
Data Bits 8
Parity None
Flow Control None



Serial Command Interface

Once connected, to the clock via the terminal emulation software, the clock should initialize. On the serial interface the following message should appear:

: Cogwheel Nixie System
: Ver:x.x, Build:xxxx, dd-mm-yyyy hh:mm:ss
: (C)2010 Cogwheel, Inc.

Command Set

Commands consist of a 3 character name followed by a space, followed by one or more arguments, followed by a carriage return. If the command name is entered without arguments followed by a carriage return, the current status of that command will be reported.

Most commands set configuration parameters and are the same as their corresponding configuration parameters accessible via the buttons.

ala [0..23]:[0..59] Set Alarm
bla [0..1] Blank Display
bli [0..1] Back-light LEDS
bri [0..15] Brightness: [0:off 15:bright]
cfa [0..1] Cross-fade [0:off 1:on]
chi [0..3] Chime [0:off 1:hourly 2:2x/hr 3:4x/hr]
dor [0..1] Date Display Order [0:’mm dd yyyy’ 1:’yyyy mm dd’]
dow [1..7] Day of Week [1:Sunday 2:Monday … ]
dse [0..1] [0..1] Daylight Savings Time [Enable 0:No 1:Yes]
[Now In Effect 0:No 1:Yes]
dst [w d m w d m] Daylight Savings Time [Start-wk/day/mo End-wk/day/mo]
hel [c,b] Help on [c:commands b:buttons]
oft [0..23] Off Time [hours]
ont [0..23] On Time [hours]
rep Report all option states
tfx [0..4] Transition Effects
[0:None 1:Blink 2:Fade 3:Wipe-off 4:Wipe-slot]
tim hhmmss.t [a,p] Set Time. For 12h end w/ a or p
ver Show Version
wis [0..4] Wipe Style
[0:Right>Left 1:Left>Right 2:Toggle-dir 3:Random
wir [1..8] Wipe Rate [1:Fast 8:Slow]
ymd yyyy/mm/dd Set Year/Month/Day


If your board clock was shipped with the Bluetooth option the following information applies:

  • The Roving Networks RN-41 Bluetooth module is used. Detailed documentation is available at Search for the Bluetooth Advanced User Manual.
  • USB works for output only when the Bluetooth option is enabled
  • It may communicate with any computing device that supports the Bluetooth SPP service
  • The Bluetooth interface will appear as a serial interface on your computing device
  • You will be required to “pair” your computing device using the ‘1234’
  • The Serial Command Interface is the same; A terminal emulator program may be used to send commands to the clock/driver board.


Under Microsoft Windows, the general procedure is:

  • Determine that your computing device has bluetooth capability
  • Verify that Bluetooth support is installed and working
  • Use the “Add a Bluetooth Device” function (right-mouse click on the Bluetooth icon in the task bar)
  • You should see a “Firefly” device during the discovery phase.
  • You should see a SPP Service which you should select end enable. Note the COM port setting.

At this point you should be able to connect with terminal emulation software set to 57.6 bps. 8 bits, no parity.

Please refer to the Roving Networks documentation for more information specific to the Bluetooth.