The clock features five remarkably bright, remarkably huge 2.3" alphanumeric LED displays in ultrabright red, and includes a Chronodot RTC module (for precise quartz timing, complete with battery backup) and a handsome laser-cut acrylic case. When used as a data display device, multiple Alpha Clock Five units can be daisy-chained together to display huge amounts of information.
These big 18-segment alphanumeric LED displays are notoriously difficult to drive-- there are 54 LED elements inside each LED character and the different segments take different amounts of current. We've now made it easy to drive five at a time, and wrapped it all up in neat package with classic alarm-clock styling.
Standard Features of Alpha Clock Five:
- Extremely wide display brightness range. All the way from surprisingly dim (for dark bedrooms) all the way up to surprisingly bright (for brightly-lit offices).
- Huge 2.3" (5.8 cm) tall digits are easy to see, even if you normally wear glasses
- Alarm on-off indicator
- Six standard alarm tones
- Snooze function
- 12-hour (AM/PM) and 24-hour clock modes
- Rear-panel white LED nightlight; can be turned on or off from the options menu
- Built-in calendar. Month and day display can be interleaved with time display
- Beautiful, sturdy acrylic case features subtle, laser-engraved button labels
- Transparent rear panel lets you show off your handiwork
- Comes complete with plug-in power supply and backup battery
- Microcontroller comes pre-programmmed with Alpha Clock Five firmware v. 2.0; no programming is required
- Open source hardware design-- easy to hack!
- Open source software design-- easy to reprogram (if you want to)!
- Upgradeable firmware
- Based on the ATmega644A microcontroller with 64 kB of flash; plenty of room to grow.
- Comes pre-flashed with Sanguino bootloader; can be programmed through Arduino IDE (with extensions).
- 6-pin TTL-serial connector, can be used to display data or time sent from computer
- Unused I/O pins are broken out from the microcontroller, including one ADC and 5+ GPIO pins
- Open-frame case design gives easy access to serial connector and reset button
Alpha Clock Five kit configurations:
The Alpha Clock Five, Red Edition kit-- available on this page --comes complete with the beautifully made Alpha Clock circuit board, the five alphanumeric LED displays (ultrabright red, 2.3" character height, with upper and lower decimal points), machine pin sockets for those displays, pre-programmed ATmega644A microcontroller with Sanguino bootloader, 5 tactile button switches, 20 ppm quartz crystal, universal-input plug-in power supply, stainless mounting hardware, alarm buzzer, all of the the LED driver chips, transistors, resistors, capacitors and other little parts needed to build the kit, plus a Chronodot real-time-clock module and a handsome laser-cut acrylic case. The Alpha Clock circuit board is 9.430 X 2.736" in overall size, and extra stiff at 0.094" thick. It has a black soldermask and gold plated finish. Once assembled with its case, Alpha Clock Five is approximately 9.44" wide, 3.78" tall, and 2.80" deep. Alpha Clock Five is also available in a White Edition (available here), and a "Basic Edition" in red (available here) that does not include the Chronodot module or acrylic case.
Alpha Clock Five comes complete with a Chronodot real-time clock module. It provides your clock kit with (1) a higher accuracy quartz crystal oscillator, (2) a backup battery, and (3) extra geek cred for having a TCXO-based RTC. The included battery is estimated to last for 8 years.
Alpha Clock Five includes a "TTL serial" port that can be used for communication between your computer and the clock. This serial port can be used (1) to sync the clock's time to the time on your PC, (2) to reprogram the clock through (a modified version of) the Arduino IDE, and (3) to send serial data to display on the five-character LED display. Serial data— either ASCII (text) or arbitrary data —can also be sent to multiple daisy-chained Alpha Clock Five units connected together through their serial interfaces. To take advantage of this serial port, you will need to have an appropriate USB-TTL interface, such as the FTDI Friend, which we do recommend as an accessory for Alpha Clock Five. To connect multiple Alpha Clock Five units together for serial daisy chaining, use a 6-pin SIL F-F header cable between each neighboring pair. (Older Alpha Clock Five units may require a firmware update and the installation of a header at location J5 for daisy chaining.)
The Alpha Clock Five is sold as a soldering kit [?]. Basic electronic soldering skill is required, and you provide basic assembly tools: a soldering iron + solder and small wire clippers, plus a medium-size (#1) Phillips-head screwdriver. You will also need internet access to read or download our detailed assembly guide. No additional knowledge of electronics is presumed or required. Easy "through-hole" construction and clear, photo-heavy instructions are provided. Assembly time: 1-3 hours, depending on your level of experience with soldering.
The Alpha Clock Five kit is open-source in both hardware and software, and is designed to be user friendly and hacker friendly. The on-board microcontroller is an ATmega644A, running a program atop the Sanguino bootloader, and can be reprogrammed through a free, modified version of the Arduino IDE. FTDI USB-TTL and AVR-ISP programming header locations are provided on the circuit board. The circuit board also features alternate mounting hole locations-- in case you're building a different case. Full documentation is available on our documentation site.
The Alpha Clock Five kit includes a universal-input power supply that will work with worldwide voltages. The plug is a power-strip-friendly US type, so you may need an inexpensive "grocery store" plug adapter to fit the wall socket in your country. If you need to provide power from an alternate source, Alpha Clock Five requires (and provides hookup locations for) a regulated 5 V dc power supply with 1 A capacity
About our kits
We take great pride in our kit designs; we believe in clear instructions, unambiguous labeling, goodies, and including a few extras of most small, easy to lose and/or break components. Assembly of the boards is pretty straightforward if you like to solder; it basically requires stuffing the components in the boards and soldering (a lot of) easy through-hole components. You should have prior experience soldering and basic soldering tools. Read more about what to expect in our kits here.
Alpha Clock Five kit circuit boards, components, LEDs and power supplies are all RoHS compliant (lead free). If you're building one of our kits, you'll find that everything works well with either regular or lead-free solder-- whichever you care to use.