Time is of the essence. Time is money. Time never returns. We’ve heard it all, haven’t we?
The world has seen more development in the past few decades than the history of humanity combined. Humans are slowly taking over the planet and the rate at which things happen is ever increasing. And what about this ‘time’ thing? Well, it has never been so hyped as it is today. Colleges, universities, work, flights, trains and the stock market. Everything has a deadline. Millions of dollars are transacted in mere seconds by corporate giants.
However, from a human life where two diets sufficed for survival to this modern life which has essentially become a race against time, beautiful evolutionary moments can be observed. Finding enough basis for interest, we decided to look upon this topic, laying a research on primitive scheduling techniques, ancient timekeeping strategies and much more. As we progressed, the things we learnt felt like something that people could benefit from. Also, it provided us with a sense of assessment about how people’s lifestyle affects the way they handle time and the strategies that might turn out to be the most useful for them. You wouldn’t believe what we figured, those pesky alarm clocks have a more significant role on people’s lives then they’d think. More on that later!
Here we discuss briefly about the history of timekeeping instruments, and walk you through the journey of evolution from reflecting poles to modern clocks. If you are interested in this along with a bunch of trivia along the way, read on! However, if you are not a history geek like us, we have a bunch more content based on modern clocks including product reviews and buyer’s suggestions. Be sure to check the articles alongside!
So, we always thought about time as something that transcends reality. Past and future, for example. They don’t exist except within the framework of time. For us humans, all there is and all there has been, is the present moment! It’s fascinating to think how time maintains track of history, establishing the universal chronology. A human keeping track of time must sound like a paradox if anything, because it’s clearly the other way round! All we do is try to synchronize physical events to the flow of time, using anything from a pendulum to an atomic vibrator. The basic idea of timekeeping though, can be seen to have evolved much earlier in humanity.
Getting back to the real world, there have been many wonderful inventions along the way. In the very early days, people used poles with markers laid on the ground to indicate the time of day corresponding to the spot where it’s shadow fell. This was followed with discoveries like hourglasses, where people would measure a standard time (usually one hour) repeatedly, by allowing a fixed volume of sand drip from one chamber to another. Soon there were mechanical clocks based on pendulums, wrist watches with quartz vibrators and in no time, atomic clocks which don’t lose a second in thousands of years. And how could we miss those alarm clocks, useful but annoying at the same time, ruining our sleep but also helping us be in schedule with our routines. These inventions, today, are proven to have simplified our lives to a great extent and solved many problems, small and large.
Although it is not a topic of prime debate, we need to keep track of time everyday and quite frequently within a single day. Our work is based and motivated by the fact that these time tracking devices are so undervalued in our lives. Can we imagine a day without any access to a watch or a cell phone? One hell of a day it would be.
Enough chitchat, let’s take a look at how timekeeping evolved in this elegantly designed infographic.
We can clearly see how drastic of a toll evolution has put on the development of clocks. It started with sundials during the ancient times, who designed devices that mapped shadows on a reflection unit to a corresponding measurement of time. In 16th century BC, water clocks came into action which was soon replaced by hourglasses in 150 BC. Later in 725 AD early mechanical clocks were introduced to the world. Soon astronomical clocks were developed in 1336 AD that could show sun, moon’s age, phase, nodes and star maps. More accurate spring-driven clocks were made in around 1500 AD. In 1656 AD, pendulum was developed after Huygens determined the mathematical formula that related the pendulum’s length to time. Again in 1675 AD Huygens and Robert Hooke designed hairspring to control the oscillating speed of the balance wheel in the clocks, which had better accuracy.
In 1735 AD, John Harrison built a marine chronometer which could show time with great accuracy in spite of motion or variation in temperature, humidity, and air pressure. Early electric clocks were developed in 1815 AD by Francis Ronald which was powered by dry pile batteries. Later in 1927 AD Warren Morrison and J.W. Horton built the first quartz clock in Bell Laboratories Canada. Finally, first accurate atomic clock based on the certain transition of Ceasium-133 atom was built by Louis Essen in National Physical Library, UK in 1955 AD. Ever since, an atomic clock is considered to be the most accurate clock, believed to lose a mere second in every 15 billion years.
There have been supplementary inventions. Today, a million features are available in a single smartphone. However, this luxury of multi-featured gadgets is relatively new in evolution. One gadget could only do one thing. From the perspective of that contemporary period, a clock meant to show time, becoming able to wake you up in the morning with a ring was nothing short of a revolution. We will discuss those alarm clocks for some more information.
The way alarms are triggered are very different between the old, mechanical gear based clocks and the modern quartz oscillator based devices. Mechanical alarms, often analog in nature, work by having an arrangement that would be triggered in a certain moment time everyday whenever the configurations of the hour hand and the alarm hand coincided. Digital clocks play a preset alarm tone through the speakers trying to simulate classic alarms, but the outcome is based on processing and execution of commands. Let’s see how both these types of alarm clocks work in brief.
How does an alarm clock work?
The workings of digital and analog alarm clocks differ quite a bit, so we have categorized them separately for your convenience.
Working of analog alarm clocks
Typical analog alarm clocks consist of metal ball heads at the top, usually two of them. These heads are nothing but bells and hammer. These clocks use a mechanical system to ring the alarm. The clocks themselves have gears that turn the hour, minute, second hands and an oscillating wheel mechanism that keeps the time synchronized.
For the alarm to work, usually, there’s an extra hand which is connected to a knob that winds the alarm hand to the desired time of trigger. What this process does is that it sets a spring within the clock that is connected to that bell and hammer.
When the hour hand meets the alarm hand, it triggers the spring that was set earlier and releases the tension(force) which forces the hammer to vibrate against the bells.
That’s the plain English version of how these clocks work. We don’t intend to be rigorous here and so we have left the physical and scientific constructs behind. If you want to learn more, we are always eager to share what we know. Feel free to ask us anything in the contact section, maybe even share ideas of your own!
Working of digital alarm clocks
Digital clocks are quite different from analog ones. Obviously, they display time digitally using Liquid Crystal display (LCD) or Light emitting diodes (LEDs) and have a pre-programmed time base that tracks every second. Of course, an oscillating mechanism is necessary for every periodic event including digital clocks, but the counts made by these pulses are translated to a sequence of binary digits rather than a motion of the clock hands.
The alarming mechanism in digital clocks is also pre-programmed. You just set the time and the program does its work.
Unfortunately, getting into the details of digital clocks requires knowledge about digital oscillators, embedded systems and computer programming. Of course, the hardware alarm clocks don’t have their programs written in high level programming languages, but rather written in machine language and stored in the embedded processor. Many people don’t have a programming background for understanding this, so we decided to leave the details out.
However, if you are into programming and would like to learn how such synchronization of natural oscillations and digital computing is achieved, please feel free to contact us and just ask! Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter for streams of trivia and information in the future.
How are alarm clocks made at industries?
To wrap this up, we have included a video that demonstrates how mass scale manufacturing and production of alarm clocks is done. Losing specificity about the brand which we must say we are not actually promoting, the video should demonstrate something general.