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The Nixie Tube Story: The Neon Display Tech That Engineers Can’t Quit

How the neon-filled glow lamps came to hold a special place in enthusiasts’ hearts

12 min read
Photo of a clock featuring modern-day Nixie tubes made by Dalibor Farny.

Nixies Reborn: This clock features modern-day Nixie tubes made by Dalibor Farny. The Czech engineer has revived the manufacture of the distinctive display devices, which had their heyday in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Photo: Dalibor Farny

On a cold December morning in the Czech village of Březolupy, a man stops his truck in front of a 17th-century castle. He puts on some heavy gloves, steps out of the truck, and opens the back hatch. Carefully, almost lovingly, he unloads crate after crate of heavy equipment and supplies—an industrial glass lathe, a turbomolecular vacuum pump, and glass. Lots and lots of glass.

The man is Dalibor Farny. In 2012, Farny began working to revive the manufacture of a display technology called the Nixie tube, the last commercial examples of which were produced when he was still a child.

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Poll: Would You Want to Work a Shorter Week?

Weigh in with your thoughts on a four-day workweek

2 min read
Person holding a giant sized pencil standing next to a giant sized calendar with days crossed out to show a four-day workweek.

When I worked for a company in Texas a few years ago, one of the benefits I enjoyed was a four-and-a-half-day workweek. The system enabled my colleagues and me to run some personal errands, see our doctors, and pick up our kids from school, among other activities.

The COVID-19 pandemic required many companies to adopt a flexible work schedule to keep their operations open. Many allowed their employees to work from home full time. Nowadays plenty of those employers are trying to persuade their workers to return to the office full time, but they are facing some resistance.

One solution some companies are trying is a four-day, 32-hour workweek for the same pay.

​Does your company offer a four-day workweek?

Would you like to work a four-day workweek?

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Xiaomi’s Humanoid Drummer Beats Expectations

Solving drum-playing helped quest for whole-body control

3 min read
A black and white humanoid robot sits at an electronic drum kit

When Xiaomi announced its CyberOne humanoid robot a couple of months back, it wasn’t entirely clear what the company was actually going to do with the robot. Our guess was that rather than pretending that CyberOne was going to have some sort of practical purpose, Xiaomi would use it as a way of exploring possibilities with technology that may have useful applications elsewhere, but there were no explicit suggestions that there would be any actual research to come out of it. In a nice surprise, Xiaomi roboticists have taught the robot to do something that is, if not exactly useful, at least loud: to play the drums.

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