Jeff’s quickie page of vintage VFD:

Vacuum Fluorescent Displays

The DM160 bar indicator tube deserves its own page

VFD (Vacuum Fluorescent Display) is still used in many products (cash registers, deli counter scales, clocks, CD/DVD players)
despite all the competing technologies such as LED, OLED or LCD.
Noritake Itron is a major maker of VFD: numeric, alphanumeric and large graphical panels.
UPDATE: Futaba has withdrawn from the VFD market, effective December 2021.

It's humbling to know that most displays are still glass panels:
VFD, LCD (despite the occasional bendable plastic prototype) and OLED (the new competitor to VFD).

I bought this on New York City's Canal Street in the early 80s. I called it "Earl's Place" since Earl ran the shop.
The store tended to move around.
Sometimes it was to the left of The City Dump (a closeout store in the 1883 Clark Building at 332 Canal Street), sometimes to the right.
Once he rented space INSIDE the other store.
The store was once named "American Excess". I'm not sure if there was ever a real name for his shop.
Earl had the best surplus parts of all the Canal Street stores: rugged military indicators and new unused parts.
The store closed in the late 80s when Earl retired to Florida.

This was part of some NCR computer but I have no clue what one.
It's removed from the original brackets where the incadescent array was below the fluorescent displays.
The 14: 7 segment VFD would make you think but the incadescent panel has computer related things in Spanish such as
The VFD digits have the decimal point on the bottom, but note how they're mounted "upside down" with the wires on top and the nipple in a rubber grommet.

HELP! I'd like to use the control boards "as is", but I can't find the chip specs:
NCR 6-51146
NCR 6-51055
NCR 6-51056
NCR 6-51057

My new unused Tung-Sol Digivac DT-1707C, DT-1705D, DT-1704

Panasonic JE-850U (aka 850)
A first generation "4 banger" calculator (add, subtract, multiply, divide)
with 8: single digit "eightron" 8-segment VFD tubes
(the 8th segment is the tab on the "4")
and a 9th tube for special symbols (negative-sign, "E", dot).
My dad bought it new around 1972 and still works unlike most others of that vintage.
Usually the kybd breaks first, but this uses magnetic reed switches for all buttons!
More pix and tech info at Radio Shack sold the bare ISE DG8F eightron single digit VFD
They were also used in the Bohn Omnitrex handheld calculator.
The tube specs are at the bottom of the page

A Noritake Itron DC405A2 one line 40 character 5x7 dot VFD
salvaged from an AT&T phone display module.
The rear view shows the fine line connectors
top connectors: heater, all 35 dots per character.
bottom connectors: each of the 40 per-character grids.

Noritake Itron DC405A2 Dot Matrix Vacuum Fluorescent Display - 5x7 Dot Matrix
DIP Package Style (Basic)
Green Color
40 Digits
5 mm Character Height
45 Vsup Nom.(V) Supply Voltage
200u Iseg (A) Segment Forward Cur.
8.0us t(resp) Max.(s) Response Time
250 Lv Typ.(fL) Luminance
800u P(D)seg Max.(W) Power Dissp.

A 6-disk CD changer fluorescent display
with colors and detailed icons.
The 5 heaters and many grids are clearly visible across the front.

Click to enlarge
Display: FUTABA 9-CT-08 5H 9 digit VFD (vacuum fluorescent display).
chip: ceramic case General Instrument CF596 7534.
This is a dead Lloyd's model E333 series 255A calculator that I sold since neonixie-l folks appreciate salvaging the 9 digit 7 segment VFD.
The leftmost digit was used for negative sign, Error/overflow and "F" for when it was thinking.

Do not confuse this with the Futaba 9-CT-02 where the rightmost digit is special symbols (o - M).
There are NO SPECIAL SYMBOLS HERE, only digits!
Here's one in a museum!
The same VFD and chip were used for the Lloyd's Accumatic 333 Calculator.

tangental calculator musings

This was my first calculator from high school, around 1976.
Unlike my cousin's Panaplex desktop calculator where the digits fluttered during the several seconds required for square root or trig functions, I think this flickered "F" while busy.
It's hard to believe how this was enough to get thru advanced high school math such as calculus, before constant-memory graphing calculators that require special approval for use with standardized tests (probably to prevent cheating via "beaming" among them).

A TI 55 model 1 programmable calculator got me thru undergraduate EE (electrical engineering). Looking back, I can't see how I suffered with such as weak thing: it had little program memory, and the NiCad battery pack ALWAYS died during an exam (the power-hungry magnifier-top LED drained the battery fast). Many years later, TI apparently took pity on me when I was trying to buy yet another replacement battery pack. I was offered a TI 55 model III under "warranty exchange". So I took the offer and traded up for free. Someday I'll do a side by side comparison of the manuals. The model III uses coin-batteries that last for years due to the LCD.

In the late 80s, I finally bought the top of the line HP calculator: the clamshell HP28C.
Of course, a year later the 28S was available with a lot more memory.
Back then, New Jersey's TCF (Trenton Computer Festival) was the place for computer and electronics (well, for those of us who didn't get to the MIT flea mkt).
I remember meeting the Philadelphia Area HP Handheld Club (PAHHC) folks there. They knew the HP calculators inside and out. I think I bought a videotape of one of their presentations about the Saturn processor and how to peek/poke/hack the HP28s. I procrastenated too much and never got in touch with the fellow with surface mount equipment to upgrade the 28C to 28S.

Click to enlarge.
Red and green car race toy for VFD (fluorescent display) collectors
It's Bandai Electronics Racetime!

All you VFD (vacuum fluorescent display) collectors, start your engines!
The case is cracked and missing the battery cover but it works!
The VFD has an array of 3 x 7 cars.
The car is green with a red center (to indicate your car) with a red outline for when you crash!
2 digit 7 segment score on top.
The display is 2.7" from the top of the 2 digit score to the bottom of the last car, 0.6" wide for 3 cars.
A very unusual display, perfect for your display-tech collection!

VFD degradation

Just like CRTs, VFD phosphors will "burn in" with repetitive images.
This kitchen clock is has only 12 hour mode, so the tens of hours is usually blanked, or 1.
The horizontal segments in the leading '3' are brighter because they're never used by the clock.
Under blacklight, this graphic VFD shows common legends from the office phone system.

Jeroen Domburg's was clever when restoring a VFD

Even LEDs degrade over time with decreased output.
Learn more from

spec sheets

The MM 5316 alarm chip with direct drive to VFD

National Semiconductor MM5316 digital alarm clock datasheet (pdf)
direct interface to 4: Tung Sol DT1705 or equivalent (single digit 7 segment tubes)
The 5311 5312 5313 5314 clock chips drives 7 segment displays
but the BCD output can be used for VFD, Nixie drivers
Tung Sol DT-1704 single digit VFD, 9 pin socket
Radio Shack part #276-2016 is a 2N3904 transistor
Tung Sol DT1705 single digit VFD with decimal point, 10 pin socket
Y-1938 Y-1939 single digit VFD with decimal point, 10 pin socket
Radio Shack #276-065 Eightron VFD: ISE DG8F
Sphere still sells them: 15 @ $12

Required reading

Noritake's A Guide to Fundamental VFD Operation is the best FAQ ever. Everything you ever wanted to know about Vacuum Fluorescent Displays, but were afraid to ask.

other VFD resources