How do you tell time? Over time, methods have changed.
11/3/2009 by: Darleen Hartley
With Daylight Saving Time ending just about everywhere in the world, many people are resetting their time pieces - whatever they may be. Determining the correct time, when going from "summer" or daylight savings time, back to standard, or "winter" time, in the 20th century was achieved by a phone call. Cell phones with GPS, and atomic clocks for the home have altered that dependence.
In the 1920’s, when time zones changed, telephone operators would assist callers by simply reading the time off clocks on the wall to them. Then technology stepped in. "Speaking clocks" have provided people with the correct time for almost a century with a recorded or simulated human voice service.
Various forms of the speaking clock were used around the world. One mechanical Speaking Clock used rotating glass discs where different parts of the time were recorded on the disc. A synchronous motor drove the disc with the driving source derived from a 5 MHz Quartz Oscillator via a multi stage valve divider which was amplified to make the motor run.
Richard Frenkiel worked on time machines at Bell Labs in the 1960’s. He said the devices were large drums about 2 feet in diameter, with as many as 100 album-like audio tracks on the exterior. When someone called time, the drums turned, and a message was sent out, with different tracks mixed together on the fly.
As early as 1934, inventor F. W. Leeuwrik, an electronic engineer used his sound film experience to create an optically recorded speech which looped on a large drum. Two loops, read with a photo detector, provided hour and minute readings. A school teacher, Cor Hoogendam, provided the voice for the municipal telephone service of The Hague. Her voice gave the machine its nickname "Tante Cor" or Aunt Cor.
Speaking clocks had various names. In Austria, it was called "Zeitansage", which literally means "time announcement". France’s "horloge parlante" or speaking clock went into operation in 1934.
Britain brought out their speaking clock two years later. It was referred to as "Tim" because in larger British cities, you dialed 846, or T I M on the telephone dial. This system took up the better part of a room and consisted of motors, glass discs, photocells, and valves.
In the US, speaking clocks were unheard of, because the system was known as the "Time of Day" service. Different areas connected to a voice that answered your call with appropriate location-based messages. "Good morning. At the tone, Pacific Standard Time will be 9:52 and ten seconds."
Each area of the United States had its own number to call, but the one this writer always used in Northern California was the easy-to-remember "POPCORN" - or 767-2676.
Daylight saving time is a practice in many parts of the world, such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Jordan, Paraguay, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the US, and runs approximately from March 29 to October 25, except Morocco where it begins June 1 and ends August 21.
Daylight savings time ended on November 1st, 2009 at 2AM in California. To reset my clock, dialing POPCORN results in another recorded message: "Your call cannot be completed as dialed, Please check the number and dial again." Dialing again does no good. Back in 2007, POPCORN went the way of drive-in movies. Back then, John Britton, an AT&T spokesperson said: "Times change. In today's world, there are just too many other ways to get this information. You can look at your cell phone or your computer. You no longer have to pick up the telephone. In California, [one of the last two holdouts in the 50 states] our equipment has gotten old. It's reached the end of its life span."
So, time marches on, and newer technologies take over. There are several choices for obtaining correct time. Google offers atomic clock accuracy on your personalized home page with a clock in your favorite color. If you travel, you can get current, local time anywhere in the world with the Talking World Clock from World Time Engine on their website, or by dialing a given number for a small fee.
Need I point out that cell phones, with GPS and local time readings are a convenient, quick way to learn the correct time? A Gizmodo survey found that two-thirds of the people they polled preferred using their cell phone instead of a watch for checking the time. However, a techie-related population does not an accurate picture paint. Try throwing a few grandparents into the mix for a more accurate evaluation.
Of those who owned a mobile phone, another survey conducted by Rightmobilephone.co.uk, found that over half of them were using it as an alarm clock.
A spokesperson for the techie-generation, Charlie Wollman, the editor of the TeenTechBlog website is quoted in 2008 as saying that a watch is "an extra piece of equipment with no necessary function. A phone has more accurate time, automatically switches time zones and is always with you."
Wristwatches are definitely losing in popularity. Robert Egan, a fellow of the British Horological Institute, said: "It is a trend that we are seeing, people are even using mobiles instead of wrist watches now. It's just another sign of modern technology taking over from mechanical things." This observation is backed up by Louis Galie, senior vice president for technology at Timex, the top U.S. watchmaker. "It’s definitely true that we’re seeing a decline in the number of watches sold to younger people."
However, 2007 was the best year for the watch making industry. Galie said sales were holding their own for watches costing up to $150, and sales got better as the price went up. They were seeing substantial growth for watches costing $1,000 and up.
Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future, which looks at the social effects of technology, thinks that the cell phone timekeeping trend is "not a Rolex problem, because people don’t spend $5,000 on a watch to keep appointments".
To answer the conundrum, manufacturers are creating wrist watch/cell phone combinations. Since CES 2008, LG has tried to keep the spotlight promising a new watchphone. Finally, in August, 2009, it was announced that Orange in Britain was selling the LG GD910 3G watchphone in limited quantities. It was also cleared in the US by the Federal Communications Commission.
A major stumbling block to depending on a cell phone instead of a wrist watch for telling time is their battery life. However, the Telegraph claims that the LG watch/phone has a standby battery of up to 12 days. Orange is selling the new touch screen device for 500 British Pounds [US $819]. So, you can pick up a pricey wrist watch as a fashion statement, or a watch phone as a techie statement, all for around the same price.
watch, cell phone, LG GD910 3G, Timex, British Horological Institute, daylight saving time, Morocco, Bell Labs, F. W. Leeuwrik, Popcorn, TIM, AT&T, Rolex, Google
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