What is a nixie tube

What is a nixie tube?

You may have seen them in old scientific movies from 70th and wondered how they worked. Well, here is your chance to find out.

Have you ever wondered what was used before digital LED displays overtook displays in consumer products? There were cold cathode display tubes in use, or so called, nixie tubes. The Burroughs Corporation originally introduced these tubes in the 60th. Actually, the name ‘nixie’ came almost accidentally. A designer making drawings of the device labelled it NIX I, for Numeric Indicator eXperimental No. 1. A colleague of him began referring to it as ‘Nixie’, and the name glued. Production stopped in the United States and Europe in the 1970s, and continued in Russia and Ukraine into the 80th-90th. That explains its price today.

You may wonder how the nixie tubes work. Nixie tubes work in the same way as a neon tubes, but instead of two similar electrodes, they have specially shaped electrodes in the shape of the symbol or digit. Another electrode (the anode) is in the form of a fine mesh grid inside the nixie tube at the front of the tube. When a high voltage is present across the electrodes, the neon gas between them glows a warm orange color. So how can you display more than one symbol per tube? Simple—just stack a heap of differently shaped electrodes one behind the other with insulating spacers between them, and drive the digit you want to light up. They need around 160 volts or more to strike, and then maintain around 120 volts across the tube while running. In fact, it works very well, and provides sharp, clear characters that can be driven by simply connecting the appropriate cathode to the negative of the high voltage supply.

I personally fell in love with nixie tubes. Wherever nixie tubes are used it gets my attention. One great idea to revive nixie tubes is to put them on display is via a nixie clock. Our unique Nixie Tube Clock imparts a warm orange glow from with brand new nixie tubes that were rescued from old military equipment in long abandoned basements in Eastern Europe. Today there is a very limited existence of such IN-12 nixie clock, and such clocks will never be produced again.


Nixie Dream was founded in 2014 as a small family owned business of three engineers being passioned about retro nixie technology. We have combined retro nixie technology with pure wood nature and built the nixie clock which is truly unique. Our aim is to provide not only quality nixie clocks, but ones that will make a lasting impression. Our business is located in the heart of Ukraine - in Kiev. Feel free to contact us at any time.