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So, as promised, here is my take on shift registers. I will explain how they work using the M74HC595 8-bit shift register - because that‘s the type I usually use. They are available for a few cents each at many places; here in Germany, I tend to buy them from Conrad, but you can get the from many other sources like Sparkfun or Banggood.
For an upcoming project - a playclock for American Football - I did some experiments with a 74HC595 shift register IC. I made a little demo video showing the shift register at work. Enjoy.
P.S. I'll do a series of blog posts here about the project soon, showing the progress and explaining how things work. Make sure to come back later for that!