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  • The original Rudolph did not have a red nose. In that day and age, red noses were seen as an indicator of chronic alcoholism and Montgomery Ward didn’t want him to look like a drunkard. To complete the original picture, he was almost named Reginald or Rollo.
  • The Christmas wreath was originally hung as a symbol of Jesus. The holly represents his crown of thorns and the red berries the blood he shed.
  • The three traditional colors of most Christmas decorations are red, green and gold. Red symbolizes the blood of Christ, green symbolized life and rebirth, and gold represents light, royalty and wealth.
  • Tinsel was invented in 1610 in Germany and was once made of real silver.
  • The oldest artificial Christmas trees date back to the late 1800s and were made of green raffia (think grass hula skirts) or dyed goose feathers. Next the Addis Brush Company used their machinery that wove toilet brushes to create pine-like branches for artificial Christmas trees that were less flammable and could hold heavier decorations.
  • ‘Jingle Bells’ – the popular Christmas song was composed by James Pierpont in Massachusetts, America. It was, however, written for thanksgiving and not Christmas.
  • Coca-Cola was the first company that used Santa Claus during the winter season for promotion.
  • Hallmark introduced their first Christmas cards in 1915.
  • The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine. A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on that day.
  • Santa Claus's sleigh is led by eight reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder (variously spelled Donder and Donner), and Blixem (variously spelled Blixen and Blitzen), with Rudolph being a 20th-century inclusion.
  • Outdoor Christmas lights on homes evolved from decorating the traditional Christmas tree and house with candles during the Christmas season. Lighting the tree with small candles dates back to the 17th century and originated in Germany before spreading to Eastern Europe.
  • That big, jolly man in the red suit with a white beard didn’t always look that way. Prior to 1931, Santa was depicted as everything from a tall gaunt man to a spooky-looking elf. He has donned a bishop's robe and a Norse huntsman's animal skin. When Civil War cartoonist Thomas Nast drew Santa Claus for Harper's Weekly in 1862, Santa was a small elflike figure who supported the Union. Nast continued to draw Santa for 30 years, changing the color of his coat from tan to the red he’s known for today.
  • Christmas 2018 countdown has already begun. Will you be ready???
  • Why do we love Christmas? It's all about the traditions. In this chaotic world we can miss the "good old days." Christmas reminds us of that time.


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About Obewan

  • Rank
  • Birthday 07/03/1963

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Profile Information

  • My favorite Christmas story
    Once upon a time, about 2000 years ago ...
  • Location
    San Jose, CA, USA
  • Biography
    I'm an electrical engineer specializing in custom test systems and operations. My passions are God, my wife, kids, acrobatic gymnastics and Christmas light displays.
  • Interests
    Acrobatic Gymnastics, Ferroequineographer, Christmas Lights
  • Occupation
    Rocket Scientist
  • About my display
    2006 was our first year with an animated light display. We started out over our heads and just kept getting deeper every year.

    2006: 10,000 lights & 96 channels
    2007: 15,000 lights & 128 channels
    2008: 20,000 lights & 176 channels
    2009: 25,000 lights & 233 channels

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  1. I've used my pool breaker to power the majority of my show for the past 15 years. As you say, the pool goes into hibernation and i just make sure the daily filtering schedule doesn't run when the show is on. I'd also caution that many pool pumps run off of 240 VAC (two phases of 120 VAC), which is bad for the lights and controllers we tend to use. From the photo it looks like you might have a 120 VAC connection, but use an AC voltmeter to verify your situation. If you don't know how to adapt, be sure to ask for help or call a local electrician to check it out. Other factors to consider are the current rating and length of the extension cord. Keep your load below 80% of the extension cord rating and at a reasonable length and you shouldn't have any problems. (There are a number of existing posts here about the safe use of extension cords if you want more information).
  2. Absolutely fantastic. How many channels do you use for the entire effect (ground, pole, shooting star, exploding star, etc.)?
  3. Obewan

    Making Snubbers

    Using 2% resistors are fine. That's the tolerance on the resistor value, so 2% resistors will generally be closer to the 47K value than the 5% would be. The only reason to use the 5% would be that the higher tolerances are usually cheaper, but if you already have them, use them.
  4. Last year I used: This is Halloween Heffalumps and Woozles (Winnie the Pooh) Ghostbusters Time Warp The Addams Family Others I've considered and may use this year: Old Black Magic I Put a Spell on You Remain of the Day (Corpse Bride) Thriller Monster Mash and now a few others thanks to this thread Next ...
  5. Obewan

    Why in the world?

    Welcome aboard. Sounds like you'll fit right in. I don't know if you read the fine print when you joined, but you might have noticed there's no such thing as a sanity clause with this group.
  6. Our first arches were 12' long 3/4" PVC with 8 channels each. We built them using a 100 light string in each section, but we installed them out closer to the street so when we lit them up they were so intense they really washed out everything else in the display:eek:. Luckily, we wrapped the segments by folding the string in half before staring. Rather than reprogramming every sequence to reduce power levels, I decided to remove a single bulb from each segment making them the same as a 50 count string in each arch segment. The other benefit I found was in repairing a segment that had stopped working, I simply replaced the bulb I had taken out and the other half of the string now functions until I could find time to track down the original problem. In 2009, we replaced the original arches with new dual color (white/red) arches. For these we used 50 count LEDs of each color for each 18" segment. We also added a second lower level arch that was 8' long and again had 8 segments. For these we used 35 count LEDs of each color. We were very happy with these intensity levels.
  7. Our first year with arches it was about an hour before show time and I was inside trying desperately to finish wiring the last arch. My wife and daughter were outside putting the first arch on the ground rods when I heard it snap. Like you I used a Tee at the center of the arch, but it was on 3/4" PVC. Since that's the highest stress point, that's right where it broke. Looking around I used a 2 ft piece of re-bar, wrapped the ends with duct tape so there would be a loose fit with the pipe and no sharp edges. I also wrapped the center of the re-bar for a snug fit and put the two pieces of the arch back together. It not even held together for the season, but I did that with all the other arches before installation and I haven't had a problem since. For 1" pipe, try doing something similar to bridge and strengthen the joints. Like Joel suggested, maybe using 3/4" pipe around the joint areas. It doesn't have to be a short piece, you can use whatever length you want to help spread the load.
  8. Philip, My deepest sympathies for your loss. I envy you the length of time you had with her, even if it was not always the smoothest. She is in a better place now, and no longer suffering. You are all in my prayers.
  9. Sanman, I had a similar experience last year. While the wife was out running errands (problem #1), I decided it was time to get started. I brought out the universal ladder and set it up as an A-frame (problem #2) and climbed up onto the first story roof. When I was done, I started to climb down and noticed there was a lot more wobble in the ladder than I remembered when I was climbing up. Sitting there on the edge of the roof, I could just picture my wife coming home and finding me laid out on the ground. I had to wait about 15 minutes before a neighbor came home and I called him over to steady the ladder while I climbed down. I've since started setting up the ladder as an "L" configuration, rotating the joint thats about 3/4 up the length. This allows me to set the short length on the roof and the long length to reach the ground. It gives me a slanted straight ladder that reaches over the rain gutter, and gives me a sturdy place on the roof to climb on & off the ladder. I don't know if this would help with your situation or not, but I thought I would share it with you.
  10. Richard, What a wonderful turn of events! I'm so excited for you just thinking about the possibilities. I don't know how much you'll be able to recycle from last years display, but I know we are all looking forward to seeing the results. So what does the power situation look like? I don't imagine a normal commercial building site would have enough outdoor power by default. You might also consider security. Being out on a more public street will add exposure, and might make it a more tempting target after hours. Just a paranoid thought I had. Like you said; lots of work to do, but lots of help available. While they can't do the planning or programming, they will certainly come in handy during set-up and operations. And don't worry about the distance from Marty's display, I'm sure He'll enjoy the company.
  11. Richard, Great news! I'm really glad to hear you found a place and will be getting a display again this year. I know you've got some challenges ahead with the late start and new canvas, but we all know you can pull it off and make it look fabulous! Looking forward to seeing the results!
  12. You might try contacting PC member Severex, his display is 100% solar powered. He generates enough solar power to cover his entire houshold usage, including his light display. See their display at: http://www.severex.com/xmas.html See the Solar page at: http://www.severex.com/pv.html
  13. You can count me among those that had my eyes opened by Carson's video. In my case, my daughter showed me the video, and I thought it was video animation because of the compression. I began thinking, "I'm an electrical engineer, I can do that too". I started a design based on a PIC controller, and while researching I stumbled on PC and LOR. After lurking for a number of months, I threw away my design and jumped in over my head. I ordered 6 controllers, received in early November 2006, and had the show running the second week of December. As others have said, this hobby is very addictive. Each year it gets bigger and more expensive, but we're having too much fun to worry about it . I realize he was only one of many doing this at the time, and we can only guess exactly why his video took off, but to many of us it was the first we had seen or heard of this hobby. So, thanks Carson; and to all the 'old timers' that paved the way for us to join the fun.
  14. Personally I have 9 pre-wired mini's that I purchased at Target and have been using for the last 2 years. This year I'm removing them from the display. In their place I'm building 9 multi color mini's that I have yet to make (I know, I'm really behind on all of the construction and programming this year. That's what October is for, right?) I like the look and how they offset my larger trees, and the mini's fit with my display and vision. The addition of color will give me more options for my sequences, and while I will lose the look of real mini bushes I think the trade-off will be well worth it. Bottom line: as most people have already stated, if you like it and it fits with YOUR vision of YOUR display, go for it. I don't think anybody will fault you for using "old" elements. If you are looking for other options that you can do with multitudes of extra channels or reasons to add more controllers; there are arches, fans, ChuckHutchings' patented "FireSticks", or the vertical version as well. How about adding a 6' or 9' kilo-tree (smaller than a mega tree) within the mega tree? The possibilities are limited only by the budget and available programming time.
  15. The two kits indicated are just not very accurate, primarily because they both use an RC oscillator as a time reference for the counter. There is a slight frequency offset to these circuits, even with fine tuning and precision matching the RC values (which these kits do not provide for and is beyond the scope of all but the extreme hobbyist). When you factor in the temperature induced fluctuations in the RC values and the resulting errors it just gets worse. I've sensed two related applications being discussed in this thread. The first is a short countdown until the next show (something on the order of maybe 30 minutes or less). A system made from the 1612 circuits may work for this type of application, since the accumulated error would most likely be fairly small. The LEDs could be removed, and the segment drivers used to control SSR's for C7/C9 segments. I have not looked at how the show controller would start/stop the timer, but if the circuit is programmed to a fixed duration and starts at power on, the controller could apply power at the appropriate time to keep the timer synchronized with the show (and turn off the timer display when the show starts again). A second application I see being discussed seems to be the full countdown of months, days, hours, minutes until an event. While the RC oscillator errors are insignificant for a few minutes or maybe an hour of counting, they are very significant when you accumulate them over days. In this case you need something more accurate and stable. I personally agree with the use of the 60Hz detector. While there are fluctuations, over the long term it is pretty accurate. Without a temperature compensated oscillator, I don't know that a crystal regulated PIC oscillator would be any better (although it is orders of magnitude better than an RC oscillator). Just my 1/2 cent. (after inflation)
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