Some time ago, YouTuber ‘sjm4306’ built a single-digit display using 20 surface-mount 0603 LEDs. After finding these little LEDs very difficult to solder, he did what any self-respecting hacker would, and built a display featuring eight digits and a decreased pitch to make them slightly smaller. He also added a decimal point for each, meaning he ‘only’ had to solder 168 of these little components to complete the build.
Along with this, he created a secondary board to house an ATmega32U4 microcontroller, a DS1302 RTC unit, and 74HC595 shift registers for control. These boards stack on each other, forming a display that would be perfect for a clock, especially if he eventually adds a light sensor to compensate for ambient conditions. It could even be set up to show information such as YouTube subscribers, weather, or anything else that can be send to an ESP module and transmitted to the main controller over serial.
One interesting note on the build is that while each digit uses 20 LEDs, they’re placed in a seven-segment arrangement, giving them an iconic look with a bit more control. Files for the project are available in its write-up, and both the eight- and one-character displays are seen in the videos below.