Back in the mid-70s Texas Instrument changed the watch market by introducing a cheap LED watch in a plastic case. Early models had a dark red plastic face and LEDs would light up when pressing a button on the side of the watch. Those watches were fascinating and I still think of buying a LED watch - unfortunately most sources online are Chinese products that don't look even close to those TI watches.
Out of the blue a couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a Canadian company that is active in the DIY electronics market, asking if I wanted to have a look at Solder:Time, their LED watch kit. I said yes, and it's really something cool.
First off, the Solder:Time is sold either as a DYI electronics kit or as an assembled watch. While I'd love to be able to hack away with hardware, I couldn't solder anything, so the assembled watch it is.
I got it here last week and had a good play with it. First off it's not small. It's actually large and it is mounted on a beautiful laser cut transparent acrylic case, with a CR2032 3V battery and a single button on the side. The display is a red four digit seven segment LED. Like other displays using this technology, it is not very effective outdoors under direct sunlight, but works well indoors.
If you get the Solder:Time as a kit you will find on the back of the PCB pads for a DC supply and "Always On". With this you could keep its display always on and mount it as a desk clock for example. Or if you get it assembled you can use as a wristwatch (a rather large one obviously) or hang it from a laptop bag, backpack, etc.
There's not much in terms of functionality. It's a watch, no other functions. There's only one button with a couple of functions: press and release to see the current time, or press twice (holding on the second press) to switch to the time set mode. In this mode the time will advance while you press the button, slow at first then after ten seconds in a fast mode.
The display will remain active for about five seconds and turn itself off. Reading through their web site I found some more information about the use of its 4 digit 7 segment LED, with some interesting explanation on how it actually lights up each segment in a quick sequence to save battery, instead of lighting up all segments at the same time. Obviously I don't have an exact number for the battery life, but seeing this is a low power use kit, I'd expect the CR2032 to last a while before needing replacement.
I also had a look at its assembler code, available from their site, and found it fascinating. Mainly because it shows that the hacking spirit is still alive and well, and those devices are a good example of it. No wonder it did well when launched during the Maker Faire Bay Area 2011.
Spikenzielabs, the company behind the Solder:Time, has other DYI electronics projects that might catch your interest.
- perfect laser cut acrylic case
- clever use of power by creating a battery saving display routine
- available in kit and assembled watch
- your geek level goes up to 10
- rather large as a wrist watch, although it shows off the "hacker" heritage