I got interested in neon ring counters after seeing PA3FWM’s incredible Nixie-clock using neon lamps as logic elements. Quickly I discovered Ronald Dekker’s comprehensive Ring Counter Variations page. It lead me to an old book, “Electronic Counting Circuits” by J.B. Dance available from Dieter’s Nixie World (zipped PDF document). I highly recommend taking a read of all these sources.
What I found captivating about these devices was that each neon bulb had a dual function. Not only does each bulb indicate the count but it also stores the state of the count. Each neon acts as a memory device, holding its state until the next pulse arrives. With a handful of neon bulbs it is therefore possible to create a counter or a divider. And the only other parts required are some readily obtained resistors, diodes and capacitors. No transistors, no integrated circuits, no other tubes. Just neon bulbs.
Enchanted by the simplicity of all of this, I just had to give making a neon ring counter a go; here is the result: