Ceska verze

Nixie tubes

     Nixie tube is a cold cathode lamp filled with gas (typically neon with some argon at a low pressure, mercury is sometimes added for longer life). It is used for displaying numbers or other symbols. It has one common anode and multiple cathodes, whose shape forms individual characters. Applying voltage between the anode and one cathode, the respective cathode lights up (becomes surrounded by glow-discharge) and thus will display the character (digit). The principle is similar to that of neon glow lamps. Similar is also the light color - orange. For ignition of the nixie, about 150 - 200V is required, most commonly 170V.

     Nixie were used primarily before the advent of other displays, such as LCD, LED and VFD displays. Now they are no longer manufactured or fitted into factory-manufactured equipment. However, they are experiencing a renaissance and people like to return to them, particularly for the construction of a retro design digital clocks. Some constructers mimic design of the time when nixies were actually used, but there are also crazy anachronisms like clocks with blue or RGB LEDs used to backlight the nixies (!!!), clocks controlled by human voice, clocks full of SMD components and so on. A typical retro design includes traditional iron transformers, primitive logic circuitry like 7490, 7400 and 74141 nixie driver. Anachronistic design usually involves switching power supply, switching inverter of anode voltage, LED backlight, multilayer boards with SMD components, microprocessors (MCU) like AVR or PIC, DCF-77 or even GPS sync, remote contro, etc. :). Some examples of nixie clocks:
Nixie clock with medium level of anachronism
Big nixie clock with medium level of anachronism
Traditional nixie clock without MCU - only with logic circuits
1970's TTL logic nixie clock

     Although no longer in production, there's still huge stock of nixies. They can be found in different old devices, but also new, unused. Small types were produced in very large quantities. Nixie with digit height up to about 2 cm are quite common and can be found in huge heaps in old stocks, old measuring instruments and so on, or bought for few dollars. (Especially in post-Soviet countries there are vast new old stocks of nixies with no use.) Larger types (about 2.5 - 4 cm) are relatively rare and the largest (5cm or more) very rare. Such large types were not produced in large amount, as their use was not very wide. Now nixies are popular to construct nixie clocks. At the time of their production, however, nixies were rather used in measuring and computing equipment, as votmeters, multimeters, frequency counters, pulse counters, calculators and so on; their use for digital clocks was very rare and limited to special clocks and timers for lab, industrial and automation purposes.

     On this page I have collected some nixie tube data. The table below shows an overview of the most common Soviet nixies. Note that the older types such as IN-1, IN-2, and IN4 have a lifetime of just 1000 h. Newer nixies as IN-8, IN-12, IN-14, IN-16, IN-17 and IN-18 have a specified lifetime of 2000 to 12 500 h. This is probably caused by the addition of mercury, which limits evaporation of the cathode material and cathode poisoning. The lifetime is still several times underestimated, it is a minimum guaranteed lifetime. With proper handling, of mercury-enriched nixie can serve without any problem more than 5 or even 10 years of continuous operation. Especially if all of the cathodes are used evenly and sufficiently often alternated. When used in clocks it is therefore possible to achieve greater durability, particularly in frequently changing digits (seconds), than in the nixie measurement equipment, where most of the time, when they're not active, showed all zeros. The old equipment, on the other hand, was used mostly in style of "switch on - use - switch off" and so equipment manufacturers did not think too much about how to prolong the nixie life. They sometimes used unnecessarily high currents. The datasheets sometimes even did not mention lifetime, because for a device you turn on, use and turn off (eg. Multimeter) it is not important. The first types of nixie had short life of around 1000 hours, the last ones 50,000 h, and if cathodes were used evenly and sufficiently frequently switched, it could be even 500,000 hours. However, this is 57 years and it has never really been tested :). It is necessary to note that the life expectancy especially of Soviet nixies is very conservative, and in fact can reach more than ten times the datasheet value. This is the "minimum operating life", which differs considerably from that of "average life" or "mean life". The minimum lifetime is the time during which a negligible percentage of units fails. In contrast, the average or mean life, which is today used for measuring for example the life of incandescent bulbs, flurescent lamps or displays, is the time after which half of the units fails.


Z5680M nixie tube - animation.


Z5680M nixie tube (just like Z568M, but without red filter).


5cm (2inch) high digit. Z568M and Z5680M were the biggest nixies of Comecon.


Z5680M from bottom and top.


All digits of Z5680M (the same shapes and sizes as in Z568M).


Z5700M, Z5660M, Z5680M


Mix of numeric nixies RFT Z566M, RFT Z5660M, Tesla ZM1040 and symbol nixies Tesla ZM1041S a RFT Z5670M.


Z566M, Z5660M, ZM1040 ZM1041S a Z5670M.


Z5660M vs Z566M vs ZM1040.

Z566M vs Z5660M vs Philips ZM1040 vs Tesla ZM1040 vs Tesla ZM1042
Great nixie tube comparison - RFT Z566M vs. RFT Z5660M vs. Philips ZM1040 vs. Tesla ZM1040 vs. Tesla ZM1042


A bit deteriorated ZM 1040 from Philips. Nixies from this maker are rare in Czech republic. This nixie has no supportive mica rings, the system is supported only by wires. The top of the anode is open. To my surprise, there are two digits "1" stacked one behind another.


Big Z5660M nixie tube with 3cm tall digits. Analogy to Z566M with clear glass. Similar also to Z522M, Z5220M, ZM1040 or ZM1042.


Z5660M


Z5660M operating


Original boxes with Z5660M nixies and matching symbol nixies Z5670M.


Tesla ZM1042 - clear glass version of ZM1040.


All digits of Z5660M nixie (same as Z566M)


All digits of Tesla ZM1040 nixie.


All symbols of Tesla ZM1041S symbol nixie (+ - U W X Y Z). Version without red filter ZM1043S also existed.


All symbols of Tesla ZM1047 (T S F N Z Y G H M X). Version without red filter ZM1049 also existed.


Tesla ZM1041 and ZM1043 with only two symbols: + and -. ZM1041 has hexagonal mesh, unusual for Tesla.


Symbol nixie tube Z5670M. Similar to Z567M that the envelope dyed to red. It displays symbols of AC current, plus and minus. It was used together with nixie tubes Z566M or Z5660M and has the same dimensions and socket. These types were used measuring instruments.


Nixies Z5660M and Z5670M side by side.


Nixies Z574M a IN-12B


Z574M operating. Left decimal point. Similar to Z573M (right decimal point) a Z570M (no decimal point). Those also have analogs with no red contrast filter Z5740M, Z5730M a Z5700M


pair of Z574M operating


Z573M WF - similar to Z574M, but the decimal point is right. 13mm digit.


Z571M WF - symbol nixie used together with Z570M, Z573M or Z574M. Displays symbols ~ + -


Z580M WF - symbol nixie used together with Z570M, Z573M or Z574M. Displays metric prefixes K, M, G, T, m, micro, n, p.


Miniature RFT nixie Z590M with 10mm digits, right and left decimal point. Version Z5900M without red filter also exists.


ZM1030 from TESLA - unusual so called bi-quinary nixie tube. It has two anodes, separated by shielding grid. Even numbers are in one anode and odd ones in the other anode. It has only 5 cathode pins - the cathodes are internally connected in pairs 0-1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9. On the photo you can see digit 4 in the rear anode, viewed through the front coarse grid and the center fine grid. 15.5mm digit height.


Detail of TESLA ZM 1030 internal structure


TESLA ZM1030 - all numbers.


TESLA ZM1031/01 with + - ~ signs. Matching with ZM1030 - it has the same dimensions. Inconceivable construstion. It has 2 anodes, 3 cathodes and a screen grid. Rear anode contains - ~ cathodes, the front one contains just +. According to datasheet, both cathodes and the screen should be connected externally. Why this nixie has two separate anodes and a screen is beyond my comprehension.


ZM1080T TESLA - similar to Z570M / Z573M / Z574M. The grid is rectangle, not hexagonal. The dots are at both left and right, but they are rather under the digit than to its side.


Board with ZM1082T Tesla nixies. Clear modification of ZM1080T. Board comes probably from an old reel tape video recorder or movie scanner, as the pairs of digits are marked as hours, minutes, seconds and frames.


Autopsy of broken Tesla ZM1080T nixie. (Warning - nixie tube may contain hazardous substances!)


Dolam LC-531 nixie from Poland. Similar to Z573M, ZM1080T, ZM1082T.


Valvo ZM1000 with 14 mm high digit. In Czech Republic this type is rarely seen.


Valvo ZM1000 - detail from top. Very strange nixie. It does not have pins in circle, but in square matrix. Very fine mesh. The digits are attached only at their bottom ends. The tops are loose. The top of the anode is open.


Valvo ZM1000 with SN74141 drivers.


Valvo ZM1000 in operation.


ZM1020 TESLA - top view nixie. 15.5mm digit height.


Strange thing about ZM 1020 from Tesla is that there are two "8" digits. One of them can be lit up no way, it is upside down and connected with anode. It is in the middle of the digit stack and probably solves the problem, that the digits near the middle are to far from anode. (Photographed on ZM1020 with paint removed.)


Dolam LC-513 (Poland). No paint, but similar as ZM1020 or Z560M.


Tesla ZM1020 vs. RFT Z560M. First nixie has a bit smaller bulb, but a bit bigger digits.


Two different versions of Z560M - tall and low.


Philips ZM1020


Symbol tube RFT Z561M.


Some nixie tubes compared side by side. Z573M vs. ZM1020, Z573M vs. ZM1040 Tesla, IN-12B vs. ZM1020 (paint removed), Z573M vs. ZM1080T.


Soviet nixie tube IN-12B (analog of western Burroughs B-5991, 8422 or Raytheon CK8422).


IN-12B operating.


Original box with IN-12B.


oval sockets for IN-12A, IN-12B, B-5991, 8422 and similar nixie tubes (and IV-22 VFD / itron).


IN-15A (ИН-15А) - symbol nixie tube for IN-12A a IN-12B.


All symbols of IN-15A: n % П k M m + - p µ


IN-15B (ИН-15Б) - symbol nixie tube matching IN-12A and IN-12B. Displays symbols: W F Hz H V S Ω A.


IN-14 (ИН-14)


All digits of IN-14 nixie tube.


Symbol nixie tube IN-19A (ИН-19А).


Symbol nixie tube IN-19B (ИН-19Б).


IN-7 (ИН-7) Symbol nixie.

Nixie types overview

Overview of Soviet / Russian nixie tube types - height, what they display and their life expectancy.

Type Height
of digit
Displays Life time Note
IN-1 (ИН-1) 18 mm 0...9 min. 1000 h .
IN-2 (ИН-2) 9 mm 0...9 min. 1000 / 5000 h 1)
IN-4 (ИН-4) 17 mm 0...9 min. 1000 h .
IN-5A, IN-5A-1, IN-5B, IN-5B-1
(ИН-5А, ИН-5А-1, ИН-5Б, ИН-5Б-1)
9 mm Symbols min. 1000 h .
IN-7, IN-7A, IN-7B
(ИН-7, ИН-7А, ИН-7Б)
16 mm Symbols min. 1000 h
/ 800 h (A) / 400 h (B)
.
IN-8, IN-8-2 (ИН-8, ИН-8-2) 18 mm 0...9 (",") min. 5000 / 10 000 h 1)
IN-12A, IN-12B (ИН-12А, ИН-12Б) 18 mm 0...9 (",") min. 5000 / 7500 h 1)
IN-14 (ИН-14) 18 mm 0...9 ", ," min. 5000 / 12 500 h 1)
IN-15A, IN-15B (ИН-15А, ИН-15Б) 18 mm Symbols min. 1000 h (A) / 800 h (B) .
IN-16 (ИН-16) 13 mm 0...9 ", ," min. 5000 h .
IN-17 (ИН-17) 9 mm 0...9 min. 7500 / 9000 h 1)
IN-18 (ИН-18) 40 mm 0...9 min. 2000 / 5000 h 1)
IN-19A, IN-19B, IN-19V
(ИН-15А, ИН-15Б, ИН-15В)
18 mm Symbols min. 3000 / 5000 h 1)
1) different datasheets state different life expectancy.

Overview of common RFT nixies (Z***M line)

Type Manufacturer Base View Color Digit
height
Displays Decimal point Life expectancy Note
Z522M RFT ? into socket side red 30 mm 0...9 none ? old, similar to ZM1040
Z5220M RFT ? into socket side clear 30 mm 0...9 none ? clear version of Z522M, old, similar to ZM1042
Z560M RFT into socket top red 15,5 mm 0...9 none ? .
Z5600M RFT into socket top clear 15,5 mm 0...9 none ? clear version of Z560M
Z566M RFT into socket side red 30 mm 0...9 none ? .
Z5660M RFT into socket side clear 30 mm 0...9 none ? clear version of Z566M
Z567M RFT into socket side red . + - ~ none ? Symbol tube for Z566M
Z5670M RFT into socket side clear . + - ~ none ? clear version of Z567M, pro Z5660M
Z568M RFT into socket side red 50 mm 0...9 none ? .
Z5680M RFT into socket side clear 50 mm 0...9 none ? clear version of Z568M
Z570M RFT wires side red 13 mm 0...9 none ? .
Z5700M RFT wires side clear 13 mm 0...9 none ? clear version of Z570M
Z571M RFT wires side red . + - ~ none ? Symbol tube for Z570M, Z573M, Z574M
Z5710M RFT wires side clear . + - ~ none ? clear version of Z571M, pro Z5700M, Z5730M, Z5740M
Z573M RFT wires side red 13 mm 0...9 right ? .
Z5730M RFT wires side clear 13 mm 0...9 right ? clear version of Z573M
Z574M RFT wires side red 13 mm 0...9 left ? .
Z5740M RFT wires side clear 13 mm 0...9 left ? clear version of Z574M

Overview of common central Europe nixies (ZM**** line)

Type Manufacturer Base View Color Digit
height
Displays Decimal point Life expectancy Note
ZM1000R Valvo, Philips, Amperex into socket side red 14 mm 0...9 left 100 000 h Red version of ZM1000
ZM1000 Valvo, Philips, Amperex into socket side clear 14 mm 0...9 left 100 000 h Clear version of ZM1000R
ZM1020 Tesla and others into socket top red 15,5 mm 0...9 none 100 000 h similar to Z560M
ZM1022 Tesla and others into socket top clear 15,5 mm 0...9 none 100 000 h clear version of ZM1020, similar to Z5600M
ZM1030 Tesla and others into socket side red 15,5 mm 0...9 none 50 000 h Bi-quinary
ZM1032 Tesla and others into socket side clear 15,5 mm 0...9 none 50 000 h clear version of ZM1030, bi-quinary
ZM1040 Tesla and others into socket side red 31 mm 0...9 none 20 000 h / 100 000 h 1)
ZM1042 Tesla and others into socket side clear 31 mm 0...9 none 20 000 h / 100 000 h 1), clear version of ZM1040
ZM1080T Tesla and others wires side red 13 mm 0...9 left and right ? .
ZM1082T Tesla and others wires side clear 13 mm 0...9 left and right ? clear version of ZM1080T
1) different datasheets state different life expectancy.

Some nixies made in Poland

Type Manufacturer Base View Color Digit
height
Displays Decimal point Life expectancy Note
LC-513 Dolam into socket top clear 15,5 mm 0...9 left ? similar to ZM1022, Z5600M
LC-516 Dolam into socket top clear 15,5 mm 0...9 none ? similar to IN-1
LC-531 Dolam wires side clear 13 mm 0...9 left and right ? similar to ZM1082T
LC-631 Dolam into socket side clear 30 mm 0...9 none ? similar to Z5660M, Z5220M, ZM1042

Datasheets of some nixie tubes

IN-12A / IN-12B datasheet no.1
IN-12A / IN-12B datasheet no.2
IN-12A / IN-12B datasheet no.3
IN-12A / IN-12B datasheet no.4
ZM1020, ZM1022 Tesla datasheet
ZM1020 Philips datasheet
ZM1021 Philips datasheet
ZM1040 Tesla datasheet no.1
ZM1040 Tesla datasheet no.2
ZM1080T Tesla datasheet
Z560M WF RFT datasheet no.1
Z560M WF RFT datasheet no.2
Z561M WF RFT datasheet no.1
Z561M WF RFT datasheet no.2
Z560M, Z5600M, Z566M, Z5660M, Z568M, Z5680M, Z570M, Z5700M quick reference (WF RFT)
Z573M, Z5730M, Z574M, Z5740M, Z590M, Z5900M, Z870M, Z8700M quick reference (WF RFT)



Added: 23. 5. 2015
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