Some time last year ThinkGeek gave HacDC the left over neon digits that never sold. They used to carry a 'DIY Neon Kit', similar to this one, but they discontinued it. The digits did not come with any power supplies, just bags of digits, and perhaps a 'Q' or two. I had been wondering for some time about how to light them up.
I know nothing of neon or fluorescent lighting, both of which require transformers or inverters of some sort. A friend at HacDC mentioned that he was able to use an inverter that he bought from Electronic Goldmine, until it burnt out. From what I understood trying to light the neon digit might have been too much for it. I was still interested, but found out that Electronic Goldmine no longer carried it. I had seen what looked like a similar part ("5V Input inverter CCFL (Cold cathode Fluorescent Lighting) Back-lit graphic module ES5843") at Excess Solutions, which was really what started this renewed interest. I was not sure I wanted to spend $25 (the minimum order amount) at Excess Solutions, and I missed the opportunity to get a driver/inverter from Electronic Goldmine. Imagine my surprise when I opened a drawer in my office/workshop and found I already had an inverter, and had actually ordered it over six years ago from, wait for it, Electronic Goldmine! And, not just one, but four. I wasted no time grabbing a few wires with alligator clips giving it a try. It worked! Although not completely -- the digit did not fully light up -- but that was still fine with me.
Tonight I decided to try various combinations of digits (that is, series or parallel) and to open the cases to get out the neon. You can find all of the pictures on Flickr.