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As an electronics project, I would like to create a PCB that generates random blinking lights similar to the computer panel props featured in late 60s/70s era television series:

Screenshot from Joe 90 courtesy of Century 21 Television Productions

Screenshot from Joe 90 courtesy of Century 21 Television Productions

The scale is possibly deceptive from this screenshot, but the lights were probably about 10mm overall in diameter. I assume that these were miniature filament bulbs inside a colored plastic housing and I remember seeing them used in my friends' hobby projects well into the mid 1980s, but I have drawn a blank as to what they are called, whether they were manufactured as a sealed unit or the lights and housing could be purchased separately, and whether they are still available to buy. What I am trying to recreate is the look of the lights and to use components from the time if possible.

Thank you in advance for any suggestions or advice.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please ask a specific question of where you are stuck in your design \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike
    Commented May 15 at 1:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's plenty of similar panel mount LEDs to pick from. Schneider Electric would be one supplier you could have a look at, they have hundreds of similar products. Panel mount pilot lights seems to be the best term to search for. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lundin
    Commented May 15 at 6:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VoltageSpike As mentioned in my question, I am trying to identify the correct name of these vintage electronic components so that I can source them for my project. My starting point for the project is the lights because I don't know at this stage whether I will be using incandescent bulbs, LEDS, neons, etc. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 15 at 14:19

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"panel lamps" or "panel mount indicator lamps" available from: industrial engineering supplies, electrician supplies, boat, rv or automotive supplies, generic online marketplace.

They usually had a lens that unscrews from the from the front giving access to an miniture edison screw, subminiature edison screw or miniature BC incandescent lamp.

Modern versions which are LED illuminated and do not have easily removable lenses, and also look slightly different

Apparenly you can buy a kitset to build the BIG RAT studio set shown. I have not looked into the details if the lamps work etc.

10mm LEDs are also a thing, and if you don't need too much period accuracy may be a relatively inexpensive option

The second picture seems to show bare round-end lamps that have been painted, possibly by being dipped in tinted lacquer.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you. I haven't been able to find many examples of the old-style lenses as they are quite distinctive and let you use colors (such as blue) which didn't exist as LEDs at the time. They have a similar look to how Xmas lights used to look before modern LEDs became ubiquitous i.e. the lens provided all the color. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 15 at 13:58
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They're generally known as "panel mount indicators". Unsurprisingly, LEDs are the most popular option and they come in styles that are similar to the ones you're looking for but if you want the true incandescent look you can still find a few options like this: https://www.vcclite.com/wp-content/uploads/wpallimport/files/files/1050C1051C1052C1053C1090CRev2.pdf

You might also try looking on electronics surplus sites.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Neon wouldn't give you the range of colours in the photo. Used to love Joe 90 :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Finbarr
    Commented May 14 at 23:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NoelWhitemore They were, then, incandescent. But they do need to be replaced from time to time and take a fair bit of power to be visible (emitting a lot in infrared and as heat.) No LED can really quite exactly replace an incandescent for the exact same effect either by eye or when recording, using a camera. You can still buy flashlight bulbs, today. Which, if you find the right holders and bezels, are equivalent. But LEDs may be the modern approach, accepting the differences in visual effect. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 15 at 0:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ You could probably get a very creditable incandescent look by doing a relatively quick PWM ramp-up and slightly slower ramp-down. That would expand your options in terms of lens design. \$\endgroup\$
    – vir
    Commented May 15 at 0:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Something like these are pretty close to the look you're after. \$\endgroup\$
    – Finbarr
    Commented May 15 at 0:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NoelWhitemore Maybe tubesandmore.com/search/node/jewel \$\endgroup\$
    – John Doty
    Commented May 16 at 0:18
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From the picture, those would most likely be miniature Edison globes with a coloured lens in front(assumption made on the timeframe and general appearance).

You can still get Edison globes today, but with the amount of current needed by an Edison globe(basically a subminiature incandescent bulb), which varies along with temperature(very low resistance at low temperatures e.g. startup). You will need a substantially hefty power supply if you want to drive hundreds of such globes, and a high-power board to deal with high currents consumed at startup.

LEDs are pretty much standard for all indication purposes now, indicator types consume <20mA(or even lower) with a lot of different colours. To recreate the image you have, 10mm LEDs are available, with relatively low forward voltages and operating current, while being substantially cheaper(several cents) than globes.

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