The IN-9/IN-13 linear bar graph Nixie tube is a classic and gorgeous way to display all kinds of data. But with Nixie tubes climbing in price, and only super expensive artisan handmade Nixies being produced, there is a need for a modern equivalent that can mimic the look without the huge expense and high-voltage requirements.
This simple, but very effective high-resolution LED bargraph display uses a row of TLC59283 LED drivers with 128 orange LEDs to get the same look and feel at a fraction of the price. Interfacing to microcontrollers is very easy with the standard serial peripheral interface (SPI). The choice of LEDs which closely match the colour of Nixies makes it a great drop-in replacement. Putting this display inside a dark glass tube, or behind a thin layer of dark vinyl, would look absolutely amazing. You could cover the PCB with a black potting compound to get rid of the modern electronics look of the board as well.
This display will definitely give any project a nice vintage look. It’s easy to use when prototyping, as one end of the board has a standard 0.1″ pin header footprint. For integration into a more permanent project, the other end has a JST PA connector footprint. The connector is a SM06B-PASS which is very easy to get from any parts distributor.
Global brightness control is achieved using PWM on the power pin. Even when run at 5V, the LEDs are brighter than the IN-13 tube it replaces. And because the whole thing is controlled by shift registers, you’re not limited to a simple bar graph — any arbitrary pattern of LEDs can be lit! This would make a really neat lighting prop for old sci-fi movie sets.