In an era when you might get chastised if your mobile phone is more than two years old, it’s easy to forget that hardware was not always meant to be a temporary commodity. We acknowledge a few standout examples of classic hardware still surviving into the modern era, such as vintage computers, but they’re usually considered to be more of a novelty than an engineering goal. In a disposable society, many have forgotten that quality components and a well thought out design should give you a service life measured in decades, not months.
A perfect example of this principle is the beautiful LED clock built 40 years ago by [Davide Andrea]. A teenager at the time, [Davide] built this clock to be used by the local radio station, as clocks that showed seconds were important for timing radio shows. Finding it in storage recently, [Davide] took to the /r/electronics subreddit to report that it still works fine after all these years.
Cracking open the case shows a unique and highly functional construction style. Notches cut into the side panels of the case accept individual protoboards in a “blade” type configuration, with the blades connected by a handful of individual wires. No digging through the parts bin for a “worthless” old IDE cable to tear up back in the 1970’s.
There’s a surprisingly low part count inside the clock, owing to the National MM5314N IC which does all the heavy lifting. The MM5314N is still available if you want to put together your own vintage-style LED clock, but $20 a pop may be a bit hard to swallow for nostalgia. Though if you ever needed proof that the chip can be counted on for the long haul, this is certainly it.
The design of this clock reminds us of something from Heathkit, which is about as high a praise as you can give hardware from this era. Though we have to admit, switching out those eight segment LEDs for some sweet animated OLEDs would make it a pretty awesome addition to the office.