Professional Front End Engineer. Unprofessional tinkerer.

Plasma Display MC6205

23 Feb 2021

What we chattin’, bruv?

Chatting we be, about an old Russian Electronika MC6205 neon plasma dot matrix display. Easily 35 years old - that is to say it’s New Old Stock, from some dusty old Ukrainian warehouse, but made in around 1986 or so.

Why though?

I freaking love plasma displays - they have a beautiful warm glowing colour that just doesn’t translate into photographs, and I worry that this quality will be lost over time.

Yeah, no, but why?

Being a man of multiple passions it’s difficult to discern exactly why I do the things I do, as my SO would tell you but isn’t it beautiful? The marriage of redundant and modern technology. Greater than the sum of their parts, no?

You had me at ‘plasma’

Great! So let me blast details - it’s controlled by a ESP8266 NodeMCU with this source code. The API backend is my own (showing crypto values), but you could make one nae bother. It has some other meagre circuitry, and a whole fuckload of soldered connections for the archaic parallel data connection and address bus (nearing 200 solder joints on a matrix board). I mean, I could have made a PCB but it always feels pointless if it’ll only be built once.

What did I done learn?

Well, I feared this project beyond my capabilities for the most part and the manuals being in Russian didn’t assuage that. It was only thanks to the wonderful MS6205 library and kind words from a stranger to get me through.

I learnt that certain ICs can be more finicky than others. Specifically the shift register caused me some grief, and I genuinely don’t know how I fixed it. The angry pixies are barely contained in that one.

If I were to do it again, I’d fork out for the plug socket and wait for international delivery rather than soldering it all up myself (because it’s less risky and, you know, easier) but I’m impatient, so.

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