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Measuring time with a Simpson 260?

This "multimeter" measures hours, minutes, and seconds - not volts, amps, and ohms

May 2013

“I’m always making crazy clocks,” says Alan Parekh, an electronics designer and project builder in Winnipeg, Manitoba. “They have movement, so they’re inherently interesting projects.” Parekh’s latest timepiece, modeled on the venerable Simpson 260 mulitimeter, displays hours, minutes, and seconds on three small multimeters set into a clock face that Parekh designed on CAD software and then machined with a CNC router.

A PIC microcontroller controls the device. “A lot of my fascination with microcontrollers is the result of having had mostly just TTL logic to work with when I was in college, before microcontrollers were as common as they are today,” Parekh says. “Back then, you might have had 85 logic gates and 20 switches in a project, and debugging a circuit with 20 chips and hundreds of connections was a lot more difficult.”

Programming and debugging a circuit built around a single microcontroller chip makes creating electronic projects that are fun, interesting, and useful a lot easier, but there are still challenges. Parekh has published all of the details of this project on his website, and in addition to looking at the pictures and watching the video, hundreds of visitors to the site have also downloaded the CAD files, microcontroller code, and schematic diagram. Getting all of those details correct and useful for people with a broad range of skills, and making the design flexible and adaptable was the hardest part of the project, Parekh says.

You can see all of Alan Parekh’s electronic projects, including other clocks that he has made out of computer hard drives and elaborate arrays have custom-machined gears, at his website, alan-parekh.com/. He blogs about electronics, project building, and cool gadgets at hackedgadgets.com.