Visual Beep

The quieter you become, the more you hear.

I was hanging in the local IKEA store when I came across this $5 multifunction digital clock. The interesting thing about it is that you switch between the functions, not by pressing a button, but by turning the clock on its various sides. It has four sides and hence four functions: thermometer, alarm, clock and countdown timer. The countdown timer in particular is awesome. You set the timer and every time you turn the clock on the timer side, it automatically starts counting down.

IKEA desktop clock/thermometer/alarm/timer

It comes under two names: LÖTTORP and KLOCKIS

So far so good except one little annoyance: the beeping. I prefer visual notification over sound — top reasons being:

Given that the clock has a backlight, I thought why not hook the buzzer straight up to the backlight. And that’s what I did. The only hiccup was figuring out how to disassemble it. I went with sheer brute force and broke all four screw holes. After the fact, I found out that the front glued panel was hiding the holes.

Open backside of the clock showing the PCB

Above photo shows the opened backside of the clock. There are three interesting things here:

I later removed the buzzer and hooked the buzzer terminal to the green light since green light is more noticeable. Duct tape replaced screws and you can see the final effect in the video at the end of this post.

I can think of an improvement to this hack whereby instead of using a simple wire, a diode is used to prevent current flow back to the speaker driver when the LED is switched on by the processor. A resistor in series would also be a good idea to limit the current draw by the LED. Note however that the diode will cause a voltage drop which combined with the LED in series may be higher than the supply voltage and therefore not enough to turn the LED on.

Top side of the PCB showing LCD connector and the brains

The rest of the electronics is fairly boring and the computer chip is one of those black blobs you find in Casio calculators.

Short animated GIF of the visually beeping clock

Try hearing with your eyes!