Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge

A Household Master Clock

They say that a man who owns a clock knows the precise time of day, but a man who owns two is never quite as sure. In my case, that implies complete temporal confusion.

I wish my house had a master clock, sort of like the clock in my computer, which would serve as the time base for everything held within. I love the concept of daylight savings time, but the manual change of the clocks has become large and bothersome. When I was a child, we had four clocks in the house: one in each of the three bedrooms plus one in the kitchen. All analog, all easy to change. Last night I did an inventory as I changed all of the clocks. First, there’s the kitchen: one wall clock, the microwave, the stove, a clock-radio, and the answering machine. None in the dining room or living room (I convinced my wife several years ago to remove the one clock in the living room as the ticking drove me crazy while trying to read). There’s one clock in my office, not including the one in the computer or the fax machine (as I get most of my document traffic via e-mail, the old fax mostly gathers dust so I don’t bother). The TV room has two (TV and VCR) and there are two in the master bedroom. Then there are six wrist watches (not including my heart rate monitor which is a “don’t really care”) and the programmable thermostat. On top of this are the clocks in the three cars. That’s 20. Oh, and I don’t bother with the clock in the digital camera either.

There’s only one other clock that I don’t bother to reset, and that’s the one on our little indoor/outdoor weather station. Brilliantly, this one gets it’s time automatically from the atomic clock in Colorado (via radio frequency broadcasts).

If only I could get my entire house to do that.

The technology is there, ripe for general application. Even if each device didn’t get the signal directly via RF broadcast, it could get it from a master house clock via a time code superimposed on the home’s AC power line (by the house clock, not the power company). Of course, every device could be crystal controlled (as many currently are) and only need a small nightly correction for that day’s drift. When a power outage was noticed, the master house clock would send out a clock reset signal and all devices would re-establish the correct time. It would be completely hands-off and every clock in the house would agree to within a second.

At long last, I’d finally know precisely how late I am.


  1. #1 Bill from Dover
    November 1, 2006

    I believe that Bob Dylan was about forty-two years aheada ya.

  2. #2 APic
    November 2, 2006

    What you really need to ask yourself is do you need all these clocks? why not turn off the microwave, stove, tv, vcr, clock radio, fax machine and answering machine when not in use? after all, the redundant stand-by features are just adding to your energy bill unnecessarily and as you say so yourself, you have way too many ways of telling the time as it is.

  3. #3 Jim
    November 3, 2006

    I’d turn them off (or disable the clocks) if I could, but there’s no way to do that short of unplugging them. Plugging and unplugging the microwave or stove for each use is not practical (I’d have to be a contortionist to deal with the stove). One of the problems is that “adding a clock” to a microprocessor based system that already has a need for real-time timing functions (like a microwave) is trivial, so the designers put them in, even if it’s most likely redundant in the kitchen. Appliances are still thought of as separate units, not as something that integrates into a system (and thus, has a master clock available).

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