Introduction: Neon Goofy Lite

Picture of Neon Goofy Lite

Occasionally I encounter a circuit that is schematically simple but challenging in theory, yet has no practical purpose other than to look cool. Every electronics lab needs a black box with blinking lights hanging around in a corner somewhere. Just about every science fiction movie or television show ever made has blinking lights of one type or another. The Neon Goofy Lite project described in this article is easy to build but contains enough interesting parts, theory, and history to start conversations and invite questions from expert and novice alike. The version covered here has been running non-stop making that vintage orange neon glow for over two weeks on four AA batteries.

Between 1968 and 1970, Radio Shack offered 28 project kits designed to introduce customers to breadboard construction techniques and electronics theory. By 1971 there were 26 P-Box kits to choose from and many pages of electronic components, tools, and educational project labs. Unfortunately, after 1974 Radio Shack's preoccupation with Arthur Fiedler, stereo electronics, and CB radio gradually reduced the size of the electronic components and kits section of the catalog. In 1979 there were only six remaining P-Box kits offered and by 1980 they were dropped from the catalog entirely, replaced by printed circuit "kits" that were not as interesting and more than 3 times the cost of the most expensive P-Box project.

In honor of a great set of educational Radio Shack electronics project kits available during the 60's and 70's, I've redesigned the original Science Fair brand Neon Goofy Lite (Catalog #28-130) using modern components still available from electronics component re-sellers in the US. All of the components in the updated kit can be found at Mouser or Digikey. There were many things Radio Shack did extremely well during its prime. For the nostalgic or the enthusiast who would like to build an updated version of this classic "blinking light" kit, I've included schematics, parts information, assembly documentation, and pictures of a completed and tested Neon Goofy Lite based on the original from 1970.

Step 1: Obtain the Assembly Manual

Picture of Obtain the Assembly Manual

The Neon Goofy Lite project described here is based on the Radio Shack pbox kit of the same name, but it has been updated with silicon transistors and passive components that can be obtained from electronics suppliers like Mouser and Digikey. I've built the updated Neon Goofy Lite kit described here and believe it works just as well as the original kit did back in 1970. To make it easy to replicate my work, I've provided illustrations and step-by-step assembly documentation based on the original assembly manual from Radio Shack.

To build the kit, you will need the revised assembly manual available here . I've kept the original branding and publishing style of the Science Fair Neon Goofy Lite in order to preserve the original look and feel of the documentation set for the builder. But every page has been updated to reflect the changes I've made in order to incorporate modern and available parts.

Step 2: Obtain Components Listed in the Assembly Manual Parts List

Picture of Obtain Components Listed in the Assembly Manual Parts List

Review the parts list and obtain the components indicated. All components are available from Mouser or Digikey, or can be obtained from other suppliers that may be more convenient to your geography. Total cost is just less than $27. To put that cost in perspective, the Goofy Lite kit was introduced in 1970 at a retail price of $6. The economic value of $6 in 1970 is equivalent to $44 today. The project described in this article can be built for about half the cost of the project kit offered by Radio Shack in 1970. But keep in mind that Radio Shack needed to make a profit from the sale of their kit which explains where the other half of the cost went.

Below are a few notes regarding the parts used for the Goofy Lite project:

  1. The resistors for the project can be purchased from Mouser or Radio Shack (assuming they are still in business in your area). But I highly recommend the excellent Joe Knows Electronics resistor kit. It includes the resistors you need for this project and over 860 different values that can be used for other projects, all labeled in individual plastic packages for just $17. For this project you can use 1/4W or 1/2W resistors. It's your choice. Check out You will not be sorry.
  2. The case for the Goofy Lite project I built is a Hammond 1591GSBK ABS Project Box from Mouser. I used a piece of vector breadboard cut to fit on the top and spray painted with high temperature automotive flat red. I like the look of red on black, and the red color of the breadboard matched the red color of the original pbox kit. It's completely up to you how you want to house and color the kit you build.
  3. The original pbox kits used tin-plated spring clips for attaching the battery holder to the perf-board enclosure. These clips were a pain to solder to when new and they tarnished like crazy after they were installed resulting in intermittent connections. Fortunately for everyone they are no longer available. I am continuing to experiment with different connector types that are small and inexpensive. For this project I found some small screw connectors from Mouser (part number 534-8730). They aren't perfect but they are very small and make consistently good connections. Feel free to use the battery connector of your choice and let me know if you find something that works really well for you.
  4. The original pbox kit used an audio coupling transformer for T1. This coupling transformer is no longer available from the original manufacturer or any alternative source I could find. Fortunately it was quite easy to find a suitable replacement transformer of equivalent turns ratio from Hammond Power Solutions (Mouser Part 546-161C10). This transformer is roughly twice the size of the original Radio Shack transformer but performs much better in my opinion. The only disadvantage is that the Hammond transformer core doesn't whine like the old audio transformer used to. It's very effective but completely silent.
  5. Pay particular attention to the voltage rating of the capacitors. This project generates up to 150V DC on the T1 secondary in order to ionize the neon gas in the lamps. Don't use capacitors less than 200V DC for C1 through C5.

CAUTION: Although the current generated by T1 is extremely low and considered harmless, don't go out of your way to touch components on the high voltage side of the circuit when it is running. Don't take this circuit with you to the tub to see if it will float while you are taking a bath. Don't try to shock your friends with it. Treat all electronic circuits with the respect they deserve.

Step 3: Review the Schematic to Become Familiar With the Goofy Lite Design

Picture of Review the Schematic to Become Familiar With the Goofy Lite Design

You have a decision to make, which is actually pretty cool since most projects can only be constructed one way and can only do one thing. But the Neon Goofy Lite project is more flexible than that. It is possible to configure the project to flash the 5 neon lamps in a pseudo-random pattern or a sequential pattern. I built both circuit types and liked the pseudo-random pattern the best (see the video on the summary page) but your preference may be different from mine. The assembly manual covers both types in detail so it's entirely up to you which circuit you build.

The Goofy Lite circuit looks simple but contains enough theory to keep a second year engineering student busy. The core of the circuit is a negative resistance device: The NE2 neon lamp (also known as the A1A lamp). There aren't many devices in electronics that exhibit negative resistance; a few microwave diodes, SCRs, the uni-junction transistor, and gas discharge tubes like the neon lamp. The great thing about a negative resistance device is that it can be used to build a simple oscillator with only a couple of passive components. No amplifiers or feedback networks required.

Negative Resistance

To get an idea of what is meant by "negative resistance", review the two V/I charts above. The first represents a V/I graph of a diode and a resistor, both positive resistance devices you are probably already familiar with. The second represents the V/I graph of a neon lamp, a negative resistance device. Notice in the positive resistance graph that the slope of the V/I curve is always positive (up and to the right). Increasing current through the device always results in an increasing voltage drop across the device. However, notice that the neon lamp has a portion of its V/I curve with a negative slope at the lamp breakdown voltage (90 volts). In the negative slope region, increasing current through the lamp results in a decreasing voltage across the lamp. This characteristic is what makes the blinking neon lamp in the Goofy Lite project possible.

In the 50's and 60's, neon lamps were used to build all sorts of interesting circuits including oscillators, timers, binary counters, binary dividers, lamp dimmers, and light detectors. The only disadvantage with neon lamps today is their high voltage requirement (60V to 150V). But in the past, these voltages were common for electron tube (valve) circuits making it very easy to use a neon lamp. Review the two neon lamp circuit diagrams above. One is a Relaxation Oscillator circuit and the other is a Multivibrator circuit. The Relaxation Oscillator is used in the Random version of the Goofy Lite project. The Multivibrator is used in the Sequential version of the Goofy Lite project. Below is a description of how each circuit works:

Neon Lamp Relaxation Oscillator

In order to control the flash rate of the neon lamp, we need a time delay. A simple time delay circuit can be constructed with a resistor and a capacitor in series, often referred to as an RC circuit. When energized, the capacitor gradually charges to near the power supply voltage. How quickly the capacitor charges is determined by the value of the resistor and the value of the capacitor according to the following formula:

Trc = R * C

Refer to the Relaxation Oscillator Schematic attached above. When power as applied to the series circuit C1/R1, capacitor C1 will begin to charge. When C1 voltage reaches the neon lamp firing voltage (90V), the neon lamp will light and C1 will discharge into the neon lamp. Resistor R1 will essentially be isolated from the circuit due to the relatively low resistance of the neon lamp. When C1 voltage falls below the neon lamp holding voltage (50V), the neon lamp will extinguish and C1 will begin charging again through R1. This cycle will repeat for as long as power is applied to the circuit.

Review the chart underneath the Relaxation Oscillator Schematic. The chart contains the capacitor voltage over time. Notice that the capacitor does not charge in a straight line but in an exponential curve function. The equation for this curve is:

Vcapacitor = Vpower * [ 1 - e^(-t/RC)]

You might recognize this equation if you've had a class in statistics, physics, or calculus. This equation is very easy to use with a modern calculator so don't let it intimidate you. Solving the equation for the resistor and capacitor values RC will render it a little more useful when designing circuits like the Goofy Lite:

RC = -t / ln (( Vf - Vh ) / Vf )

In the above equation, ln is the natural log function on a calculator, Vf is the neon lamp firing voltage, Vh is the neon lamp holding voltage, t is the desired lamp flash rate, and RC is the product of the capacitor and resistor needed to produce a flash rate of time t.

For example, I wanted a flash rate around 1 second for each lamp so I used the following:

Lamp Firing Voltage = 90 VDC

Lamp Hold Voltage = 50 VDC

RC = -1 / ln (( 90 - 50 ) / 90 ) = 1.23

I wanted to keep the .22uF capacitor values used by the original P-Box kit, so all I needed to do was divide the RC value by .00000022 Farads in order to obtain the value for the resistor:

R = 1.23 / .00000022 = 5.5 Megohms

The nearest standard resistor value I had in inventory was 4.7 Megohms so I used that for the resistor values in the random circuit.

The reason this circuit is referred to as "Random" is that the flash rate for each neon lamp will vary depending on the tolerance of the capacitors, resistors, and lamps. Many capacitors have a tolerance of 10% and 20%. The resistors I used were 5% tolerance. The neon lamps seem to have firing and hold voltages that varies as much as 20%. All of these tolerances combined will vary the actual neon lamp flash rate between .8 seconds and 1.2 seconds. Sometimes more. This results in what appears to the eye to be a random flash pattern among the 5 neon lamps. If you focus on one lamp you will see that the flash rate is actually fixed for that lamp. The other lamps are firing at different rates which creates the illusion of a random flash pattern.

Neon Lamp Sequential Multivibrator

All of the principles described above apply to the sequential circuit. The only difference is where the capacitors are attached. The sequential version of the Goofy Lite is composed of several Multivibrator circuits distributed among the 5 neon lamps. Review the sequential circuit diagram above and the chart attached to it.

When power is applied, one of the neon lamps will immediately fire first due to manufacturing tolerances. In this description, lets assume that neon lamp NE2-1 fires first. When NE2-1 fires, it creates a conductive path for capacitor C1 to charge. When the voltage on C1 reaches the firing voltage of NE2-2, that lamp will fire which causes the voltage on C1 to extinguish neon lamp NE2-1. C1 will then charge through the conductive path provided by NE2-2 until it approaches the firing voltage of NE2-1. NE2-1 will then fire causing the voltage on C1 to extinguish neon lamp NE2-2. This cycle will repeat for as long as power is applied to the circuit.

By carefully distributing three copies of the Multivibrator circuit among the 5 neon lamps, the sequential circuit can be made to flash each neon lamp one after the other.

DC-DC Step-Up Converter

If all the above theory wasn't enough, we still need some way of producing 150V DC from a set of AA batteries. The original P-Box kit used an audio transformer with a 24:1 turns ratio to step up the 6 VDC battery voltage to around 150 VDC for the neon lamps. However that audio transformer is no longer available from any commercial source (I've tried them all). Occasionally someone on eBay will offer one for sale from an estate auction, but you can't by these in volume from any commercial company. An acceptable solution to this problem turns out to be very simple. Any step-down power transformer can be used as a step-up power transformer when the primary and secondary windings are transposed. All I needed to do was find the smallest step-down power transformer commercially available that provided a turns ratio of around 24:1 or higher. It turns out that Hammond Power Solutions makes a small transformer with a 115V primary and dual 5V secondaries which is just perfect for the Goofy Lite project. The Hammond transformer is about twice the size of the original Radio Shack audio transformer but is still quite small and performs extremely well as a substitute.

The DC-DC Step-Up Converter is actually a classic Blocking oscillator which uses a tapped primary inductor for the energizing and feedback circuits. All I needed to do was connect the Hammond transformer secondary coils together so that they appeared to Q1 as a tapped inductor. R6 is a current limit for the base of Q1 while C7 ensures that the base of Q1 gets a "kick" when power is first applied to ensure that the DC-DC converter circuit starts oscillating. The second secondary winding of T1 provides the positive feedback signal to Q1 which keeps the DC-DC converter circuit oscillating. C6 isolates the feedback winding of T1 from the 6V battery so that only the feedback signal controls the operation of Q1.

When power is first applied, the base of Q1 will be tied briefly to V+ which immediately saturates Q1 and starts current flowing through the first secondary winding of T1. Feedback from the second secondary winding will begin to reverse bias Q1 resulting in less current through the first secondary winding. When Q1 becomes turned off, the combination of R6/C7 will begin turning Q1 back on again and the entire cycle will repeat as long as power is applied.

The frequency of oscillation is determined by the inductance of T1 secondary windings and the total capacitance across the secondary windings according to the equation below:

Fo = 1 / ( 2 * pi * sqrt ( L * C ))

Extensive testing of the Hammond transformer determined that the secondary windings were 152 mH each. Winding capacitance, reflected impedance, and other magnetic effects resulted in parallel capacitance of approximately 2.1 uF per winding. Winding capacitance dominated the values of C6 and C7 so the following equation was used to determine the oscillating frequency:

Fo = 1 / ( 2 * pi * sqrt ( .152 * .0000021)) = 288 Hz

This frequency was higher than I would have liked but the only way to reduce the frequency was to use electrolytic capacitors for C6 and C7, which I did not want to do. My goal was to keep the circuit as simple as possible and maintain as many of the component values from the original design as possible. As built, the new DC-DC converter runs at around 240 Hz.

The number of wire turns in the primary coil of T1 are 26 times higher than the number of turns in the secondary coils. This multiplies the voltage applied to the secondary coils attached to Q1 by 26 resulting in a voltage to the neon lamps of approximately:

Vsecondary * Turns_Ratio = Vprimary

6 VDC * 26 = 156 VDC

This is more than enough to run both the random and sequential versions of the project. Average current consumption is 18mA so a set of four AA batteries should run at least two weeks non-stop.

Hopefully this section has helped you understand how the Goofy Lite circuit was designed and how it operates.

Step 4: Review the Circuit Board Layout

Picture of Review the Circuit Board Layout

The Assembly Manual provides a step-by-step checklist for installing and soldering each component to the vector board. As you can see from the opposite side illustration of the vector board, I've used point-to-point wiring with 22 AWG solid hookup wire. Most of the connections can be made with just the component leads. But power, ground, and signal bus leads are best done with lengths of hookup wire. There are two versions of the Goofy Lite project. I've built the Random version and illustrated the opposite side of the circuit board. The sequential version will be very similar.

When it comes to wiring, try to be as neat as I've indicated in the assembly manual. You don't have to be the world's best soldering artist but there's no good reason to do the work half-way. Go all out and make your project look as good as you can.

Step 5: Follow the Steps in the Assembly Manual to Complete the Goofy Lite Project

Picture of Follow the Steps in the Assembly Manual to Complete the Goofy Lite Project

Before you begin:

Cut the vector board to closely fit inside the top of the Hammond project box. Measure the lengths needed and try to line up the edges along a row of holes if possible. With an Xacto knife, score a line into the vector board deep enough that it can easily be felt with a fingernail. Then carefully break the board apart along the score line. Using an Xacto knife or low speed power drill, cut the holes for the Hammond mounting screws to line up with the mounting holes in the Hammond project box. Using an Xacto knife or low speed power drill, cut the holes for the variable capacitor mounting bracket. If desired, spray paint the top of the vector board in flat red. Or any other color you wish. The natural vector board finish also looks nice. After the paint has cured, follow the step-by-step instructions in the assembly manual.

To build the kit, you will need the revised assembly manual available here.

Step 6: Assembly Photos - DC/DC Step-Up Converter

Picture of Assembly Photos - DC/DC Step-Up Converter

After Step 12 in the Assembly Document, the Goofy Lite project should look something like the photos above.

Step 7: Assembly Photos - Neon Lamp Section

Picture of Assembly Photos - Neon Lamp Section

After Step 28 in the Assembly Document, the Goofy Lite project should look something like the photos above.

Note: Capacitors C1 through C7 will be in a different location depending on the version of the project that you build. What is shown is the Random layout.

Step 8: Assembly Photos - the Completed Goofy Lite Project

Picture of Assembly Photos - the Completed Goofy Lite Project

When completed and powered up, the Neon Goofy Lite project will operate non-stop for weeks at a time. It's a great conversation starter when you have visitors in the lab. And it's an easy to build weekend project that you can do with a family member. Young people are amazed at the voltages that can be generated and used with a few 6 volt batteries, and the flash of orange glow from small neon tubes is almost hypnotic.

This revival of a vintage tech project has worked very well for me. Those that have wanted to build a Radio Shack Goofy Lite project but were thwarted due to the lack of a suitable transformer can now proceed with confidence. This was a fun project for me. I hope it is also fun and interesting for you.


KimS11 (author)2017-04-12

I also have a vintage "Metal Can" transistor that looks like the ones from the early kits. I dremeled out the insides from the bottom, and put a new transistor in it, then filled it with 2 part epoxy. This also means that the Transistor also looks original. Now if I could only get a original p-box...Id be happy.

I'm on the lookout for an original kit from EBay, just to keep.

KimS11 (author)2017-03-31

I've now gathered all the components for my Goofy Light, I'm just waiting for Mouser to send my transformer. I'm mounting the Mouser transformer UNDER the board with a dummy audio transformer on top of the board (just a random one I found kicking around, but its the right look and colour on the windings) . This will make it look more historically correct.

netzener (author)KimS112017-03-31

That's a great idea. It looks like the Hammond Transformer will just barely fit under the perfboard when screwed into the case specified for the project. If you are using a different case then you probably have more room. Send a picture when you're done. I'd love to see it!


dgrayson5 made it! (author)2017-01-13

You went above and beyond including the part numbers for this project. The parts arrived and I really enjoyed putting it together. The circuit wiring is the same, but displaying it on my desk, I modified the parts layout - more horizontal than vertical and set the capacitors back a bit for a little more visibility of the neon lamps. I used o.d. green paint on perf board (as opposed to red). It is wired for random flashing.

The circuit truly brings back the nostalgia using a transistor and powered by 4 AA batteries, and indeed "it works just as well as the original kit"!

Thank you again, for sharing your updated version of the "Goofy Light"!

netzener (author)dgrayson52017-01-13

This clearly places you in the "Freaking Awesome" category of electronics enthusiasts on Not only did you build the project, but you reported back to the community your experience with the project, and you made it your own. That is the true spirit of this site. It is an honor to have played a small part with you, but you committed the time and you did the work! User rbusch also did this and I'm very happy about the feedback you both have made public on the site. Thank you!


dgrayson5 (author)2017-01-07

Outstanding project, very nicely done! The revival of the "pbox Goofy Light". The "Science Fair Instruction Manual" is very professional, nicer than the original. Thank you for including the Mouser part numbers - a huge time saver. I ordered the parts today, all in stock. My sentiments exactly to your project description and comments below. I too, had a "pbox Goofy Light" I built when growing up in the 70's, and regrettably mined it for parts. I had made a similar one using the Neon Lamp Power Source circuit using a 555 chip from the "Archer Engineer's Notebook II" by Forrest M. Mims III. (picture posted) It works but does not have the same nostalgia as the original kit. Like JonR68, I would Google it once and while, and now thanks to you, it is a reality. The anticipation is building as I wait for the parts to arrive. I look forward to building and displaying your version of the "pbox Goofy Light". Again thank you for sharing your fun project.

netzener (author)dgrayson52017-01-08

Many thanks for the encouraging comments. That photo of the neon lamp project with the 555 timer looks really cool! Radio Shack published some decent books during it's prime and the series written by Forrest Mims including the "Engineers Notebook", "Engineers Mini Notebook", and "Integrated Circuit Projects" were all excellent. If you need any assistance, or if you find any errors or omissions in the documentation please let me know.

Thanks again!


KimS11 (author)2016-08-01

Do you happen to know the original specs for the audio output transformer?. Was it 1k to 8 ohm???

netzener (author)KimS112016-08-01

The original transformer was a center taped 1K ohm primary and a 100K ohm secondary. E-core laminated iron.


KimS11 (author)netzener2016-08-01

Thank you, I happen to have a stash of what the hell...Ill use em...even if they sing. I had one of the original kits...its gone now, but I going to rebuild, using your instructions. WELL DONE ARTICLE, a very fun, easy project...and great instructions. I have to say we need more articles like this...that dont need a $400.00 3D printer.

KimS11 (author)2016-08-01

Coloured boards are definitely a market thing. I was in Ireland a few years ago, and the assortment of colors for boards was mind-boggling. I brought back as many different colours as I could afford. Alas, they were lost in a mad-cap separation with my wife. I have many older project mags, and every board was some bright color that they always used in their projects.

netzener (author)KimS112016-08-01

Those were so cool. These days I use spray paint and sometimes a flat clear coat. Looks great but it's an extra step.


rbusch (author)2016-04-29

Finally got around to making one. Had to purchase the transformer, lamps, and 400v .22uf caps the rest was crap i had or salvaged. The box was from thrift store. And i put a battery pack in the box and added a power switch on the top of the board for ease of use. :) works pretty good!

netzener (author)rbusch2016-04-30

You are most totally awesome! That wooden case looks extremely good. It's... incredible. Amazing! Congratulations on a job done well.


rbusch (author)netzener2016-05-01

Thanks! I tryed to spend as little money as possible lol

rbusch (author)2016-04-19

going to have to make one of these, i think i have all the parts kicking around too maybe not the lamps, ive already made a useless machine and this looks like it will fit right in that category lol.. you did a great job on this instructible, very well explained and presented. :)

netzener (author)rbusch2016-04-19

Thanks for the kind comment! I'm glad the article appealed to you. I am still practicing my writing technique to become a better author and illustrator. Have fun building the project and be sure to post a picture when you are done. I'd love to see another version in action.

All the best,


JonR68 (author)2016-04-11

Thank you so much... I built these as a kid in the 70s and rebuilt one in the 80s and have one on my desk thats been lit off n on for 30 years now... This was my all time favorite kit and I am a neon artist/sign glassblower for 34 yrs, I am now 56... I had to replace the lamps a while back... I have Googled this project/product for several years off and on even about 8 months ago hoping someone would recreate it and late tonite I Googled it again and this popped up... Ill order the stuff right away and this time in going to do the sequential one along with my favorite, the random... I always built the random but I want 1 sequential to have around... I found a similar line voltage kit years ago with green lamps but it did not have the same feel and look... cool tho, but not the same as my beloved original...

Thank you for investing your time to update this classic project... Ill teach my 22 yr old son to build one as I did long ago when I was in my teens...

netzener (author)JonR682016-04-11

The fundamental interconnectedness of all things (on the Internet) is still working extremely well I see! Many thanks for the comments and your story about the original Neon Goofy Lite. Let me know if you need any assistance when you build your project and by all means send all of us here at Instructables a picture in the comments section when completed. Folks here dig that sort of thing :-)

Thanks again!


eburman (author)2016-03-23

Yes that's sort of cool. It shows how to use a nifty circuit to step up voltage to randomly drive a battery of neon bulbs. I love the old school neon lamps! But why stop there? Even more amazing are neon ring counters that use a simple circuit similar to what you have illustrated with diodes to sequentially drive a series of neon lamps. Google it. Very, very cool!

netzener (author)eburman2016-03-24

Hey, eburman! Thanks for the note and I'm glad to see we both like the blend of old tech and new tech. You are absolutely right that neon lamps, because of their simplicity, found their way into a lot of early digital circuits like adders, dividers, flip-flops, counters, oscillators, timers, and more.

There are two articles I found during my historical research which were the inspiration for reviving the Science Fair Goofy-Lite project.

One by Forrest Mims dated December, 1976 when he was writing for Nuts and Volts magazine:

The other from Electronics Illustrated, November 1966, "Build This Space Age Decimal Computer":

Both of these contain excellent information on the use of neon lamps and provide a peak into enthusiast culture of the 60's and 70's.

I've wanted to re-design and build the Neon Goofy-Lite project for a few years now and I'm glad I finally put the effort into it.

Thanks for the comment!


eburman (author)netzener2016-03-24

Hey netzener, thanks for the great links! I've got a bunch of different neon lights in my junk box, so I guess it's time for me to get to the breadboard and start experimenting. Here's a great site for those that are truly obsessed with neon lamps:
Also, here is a picture of a clock kit that I assembled that uses neon lamp ring counters. I learned that neon lamps are kind of unreliable. They don't want to light up in the dark. They are susceptible to UV and ambient ionizing radiation. Can't really expect consistent performance. But they are just soooooo cute. Got to love 'em.

netzener (author)eburman2016-03-24

Forgot to mention:

The Neon Goofy-Lite project has both a Random and a Sequential version and I've built them both and they work great. The Sequential version lights the NE2 lamps in sequence from left to right, or right to left, depending on... heh, well... depending. The assembly instructions contain both schematics, wiring diagrams, and assembly steps for the Random and Sequential versions. It's up to the builder to decide which version they want to build.

Thanks again for the comment.


tomatoskins (author)2016-03-21

I love the randomness of it and the red board makes it much more eye catching than the plain stuff!

netzener (author)tomatoskins2016-03-21

Yes! I love the red color. I'm not sure if it's a chemistry thing that prevents manufacturers from offering perf-board in different colors, or maybe it's a market thing. That is, you sell fewer boards overall because not everyone wants red, blue, green etc. Making perf-board in one color ensures you sell everything you make.

I seem to remember that there was some blue perf-board used in a project some time ago, but the builder may have done what I did: paint it.

Thanks for the comment!


Gelfling6 (author)netzener2016-03-21

I think the main reason, was originally, phenolic usually was just plain cream color anyways.. I don't think there was any reason why they couldn't add a dye to add color.. Personally, Whomever invented the clear-plastic Breadboards, was Sadistic! (trying to find holes on the same connection, and you ended-up plugging into an adjacent one.. Wait? Do I smell wire insulation melting?) (Yes, I HAVE!)

netzener (author)Gelfling62016-03-21

I suspect you are right that it is possible to add pigments to the perf-board and produce different colors. So maybe the problem is related to business efficiency. It's probably easier to sell 1000 prototype boards in tan with one part number than it is to try to predict how many red, blue, green, black, etc. will sell and then keep up with all the part numbers.

I've had good luck painting the project boards with automotive flat and semi-gloss non-metallic paint. Probably the best that can be done for now.

I saw those clear plastic solderless breadboards you mentioned. I bet they are hard to use.

Thanks for the comment!


Gelfling6 (author)netzener2016-03-22

They're supposed to be just as easy, but the clear acrylic just throws your vision off, and all you see are squares and black, but none of the squares line up.. (Here's a perfect example! ) There are SEVERAL melted wires as well as burned X5 as well as between on the power rails in my collection.

Gelfling6 (author)2016-03-21

I bought one of the original Science Faire goofy-light kits.. It had two modes, the random lights, and it also had a sequenced mode.. (Alas, at Age-11, there was just so many times you could switch back & forth between the two, before the plastic case would no-longer hold together where you had soldered the spring terminals.)

netzener (author)Gelfling62016-03-21

Yes! I thought using the box the parts came as the perf-board you built the project on a brilliant idea from Radio Shack. Except that the acrylic plastic it was made from had a melting point of around 300 Deg F. It softened and melted if you were not quick a quick draw with the soldering gun. And those spring clips. They were tin plated, tarnished quickly, and were hard to solder to. But even with those minor weaknesses having 26 different P-Box kits to build, from radios to metal detectors, must have been awesome. Especially for folks in the rural locations where many Radio Shack franchises were located.

The updated version in my Neon Goofy-Lite article allows the builder to choose which version to construct: Sequential or Random. With some planning on lead lengths, it should be possible to build one version, and then switch to the other without melting anything. The perf-board I used is MUCH more tolerant of soldering heat. The screw terminals I used are nickel plated and very easy to solder.

If you give this project a try, please let me know how it turns out. Many thanks for the comment!


BeachsideHank (author)2016-03-21

And don't forget to use your Micronta Volt/ Ohm/ Amp meter when checking the circuit out. Yep, I remember when the Shack was little more than just that- a storefront in Boston selling everything from surplus Government power supplies to fishpaper (if you know what that is, you're an old person like me). ☺

netzener (author)BeachsideHank2016-03-21

Yes! An analog meter, not a digital one!

I got my start in electronics as a kid thanks to a neighbor that wanted to give away his "electronic junk" before he moved. He didn't want his stuff to end up in the trash, he wanted it to end up in the hands of someone that would use it. In the box was an old Devry Transistorized VTVM. The batteries had gone bad and were soldered in place. But I figured out how to get it running again. There were tons of old relays, metal can transistors with leads 2 inches long, 10% carbon composition resistors which you can hardly find any more, huge light bulbs in sockets with dark red jewel caps, and my personal favorite the multi-section air variable capacitor and a box of Miller variable inductors. I was just getting started in electronics and most of these components were long obsolete, but they were practically indestructable to a kid trying to learn how to solder. That box of components and a bunch of old electronics magazines from the 60s and 70s gave me an appreciation for the history of technology from 1890 through 1975.

The majority of my professional work and hobbies are dedicated to engineering projects that are focused on the future. But I enjoy taking a break from all that by reading a well written article dated January 1964 in which the author describes how to build a "digital computer" using a few triode valves, a whole bunch of NE2 neon lamps, and a rotary telephone dial. What you and I think a "digital computer" is today is completely different from what electronics enthusiasts thought a "digital computer" was in the 1960s. That's fascinating to me.

I think I know what "fishpaper" is but not from a Radio Shack catalog. I was working with a telecom crew that was installing hundreds of fiberoptic cables for me and at every rack, the cables had to be tied down with wax string and fishpaper (thick gray fiberous paper). The work they were doing and how they were doing it was hypnotic. I asked one of the guys to show me how to wrap and tie with wax string. Then I bought my own and did some practicing at home. Now I know how to do it. The crews I work with love it when an engineer knows how to do something besides stand around with a CAD drawing.

Thanks for the comment!


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