Patrick Hogan/Fusion

I decided to build a homemade clock this morning. Why? No particular reason. Today I just felt like putting together my own clock.

One of the cool things about playing around with electronics is being able to quickly bring forth ideas and whims. It spurs creativity, in a way that also requires math and logic. It's a great hobby for adults and teenagers alike.

Patrick Hogan/Fusion

I had everything I needed in my home to make a simple digital clock; maybe I'd show it off to my colleagues later. If you want to build your own clock, you will need:

  • A Raspberry Pi single board computer.
  • A small LCD monitor.
  • Various cables to connect the two.
  • An¬†external battery pack.
  • An SD card containing the Raspbian operating system.

Once I picked out the components, it fell into place pretty quickly.

I had previously configured this particular Raspberry Pi to work with the small LCD screen. The Pi works out of box with most screens, but this one was pretty small, as you can see compared with a coffee mug, so it took a little extra configuration. The Raspberry Pi, by the way, is another great tool for young tinkerers looking to experiment with hardware.

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I cheated a bit by using Raspbian. It's a Linux-based operating system and, like all operating systems, it keeps track of the time and date in a way any program can easily call. So other than loading it onto an SD card, that step was done already for me.

Once I had everything hooked up, both to each other and the battery pack, I wrote a quick script that would display the time on the Pi's command line. This did require knowing a bit of the programming language Python, but Raspbian actually comes with a whole range of tools to help teach you how to code, some aimed specifically at younger coders.

I then set the script to automatically launch whenever the Pi was powered on.

Patrick Hogan/Fusion

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And there you have it: a clock.

Maybe not the most convenient or good-looking one, as I was basically going off of whatever I had lying around. I'll probably keep it on the table for a bit before cannibalizing it for whatever my next spur-of-the-moment project is. If you don't mind a trip to the store, there are many more impressive clock guides out there that will teach more about electronics.

Of course, this clock is ridiculously overpowered, using what amounts to a smartphone processor and a small television just to tell the time. It's like using a nuclear bomb to kill a fly, or having a cop lead a kid out of a school in handcuffs for building a circuit board clock.