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Alpha Clock Five Kit

280.: EVIL MAD SCIENCE View Larger Image
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Jameco Part no. 2157087
Manufacturer no. 280.
  RoHS compliant
Catalog 151 , page 153
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Alpha Clock Five Kit

Alphanumeric LED Alarm Clock Soldering Kit, with Chronodot module and Acrylic Case

The Alpha Clock Five: An awesome alarm clock soldering kit-- featuring five crazy-bright, crazy huge 2.3" alphanumeric LED displays in red, a Chronodot RTC (for precise quartz timing, complete with battery backup) and a handsome laser-cut acrylic case.

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.

Product Update: The kit ships with version 2.0. Check the product Wiki for the most up to date instructions.

Standard Features of Alpha Clock Five:

  • Extremely wide display brightness range. All the way from very dim (for dark bedrooms) all the way up to annoyingly bright
  • Huge 2.3" (5.8 cm) tall digits are easy to see, even if you normally wear glasses
  • Alarm on-off indicator
  • Four 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
  • 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-programmed; no programming is required

    Hacker-friendly Design:

  • 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, with 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
  • Open-frame case design gives easy access to serial connector and reset button

    Alpha Clock Five kit configurations:

    The full (non-basic) Alpha Clock Five kit comes complete with the beautifully made Alpha Clock circuit board, the five alphanumeric LED displays (ultra bright 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 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 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 7 years.

    USB-TTL Cable

    You may be interested to add an optional FTDI USB-TTL converter, which provides an optional interface between your computer and your clock. It 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, or (3) to send serial data to display on the five-character LED display. Note, however, that these are entirely optional operations-- no programming is needed to build or use an Alpha Clock Five clock kit!

    Building it

    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.

    Power supply

    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 VDC power supply with 1 A capacity

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