I have a thousand and one little projects and project ideas floating around at any given time, but there’s been one thing I’ve always wanted to build: a replica of the ‘Time Circuits’ from the Back to the Future movies.
At their heart, the ‘Time Circuits’ are a clock – three separate displays, showing the time machine’s present time, destination time, and last departed time. In true ’80s fashion, these are displayed using LEDs: 7-segment and alphanumeric displays, with individual LEDs for the AM/PM indicator and the seconds timer. The displays are controlled by a keypad, where you can input new destination times.
To build a replica, I’m going to need to make three custom LED segment displays in their own casings. a custom keypad, an aluminum enclosure, and the supporting circuitry to make everything work and react like it does in the film.
- 3 working ‘Time Circuit’ displays
- 1 working keypad, used to set the display times
- Match the look of the film as well as I can (within reason)
- ‘Present’ display keeps track of time
If I have the time / energy, I hope to add the following to the setup (in no particular order):
- Arduino library to easily address each display
- Sound effects
- Stopwatch / Timer / Alarm functionality
- Serial parsing (display text from a computer)
- CAN bus connection (swap times when a car hits 88 mph)
Here’s a tentative outline for how I think I’ll tackle this:
- Proof of Concept (rough prototyping)
- Display Design
- Keypad Design
- Driver Design
- Total Assembly
With each design ‘sub-phase’ formed of separate steps:
- Planning & Part Sourcing
- Breadboard Prototype
- PCB Design
- Case Design
Obvious the “programming” aspect will be sprinkled throughout, but I want to hold off on doing too much coding until the parts and pins are finalized.
This is a fairly ambitious project, but I think I have the knowledge to build something that does the film justice. As always, I’ll do my best to include my progress on this blog. Only time will tell if I will get it done!