Timekeeping (was Re: Sherwood Micro CPU/100)

Ethan Dicks ethan.dicks at gmail.com
Fri Dec 19 01:39:46 CST 2008

On Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 2:18 AM, Ian King <IanK at vulcan.com> wrote:
> Well, it did.  My nine-year-old daughter has a hard time with me telling her it's "a quarter to nine" when it is, in fact, 8:42.  The convenience of rounding is something I'm working to help her appreciate.  There's a practical side, too: when I'm trying to get her ready for school in the morning, she'll cling to the useless fact that she has "three more minutes" before it's time to go, during which she can supposedly write a sonnet, create a work of art, and find her socks, shoes and a suitable coat.  'Perception of time', indeed....  -- Ian
> [*] I remember the consternation the transition from analog to digital clocks
> caused in the mid-70s. Many people seemed to have difficulty with it and were
> somehow concerned that it might 'change our perception of time'.

I just watched the Quartz Clock episode of "The Secret Life of
Machines", and there was a bit in there about that - the animated
character was trying to figure out how late he was to the opera by
"doing the math" in his head about what time his digital watch showed
and when the curtain would rise on the performance.  He gave up with
his sums and asked another animated character what the time was on her
analog watch - he quickly saw the minuscule number of degrees
difference between now and they and understood how late he was.

It used to be a big deal to learn how to tell approximate time when
learning foreign languages, but perhaps now that quartz/electric motor
analog watches are inexpensive (certainly compared to a mechanical
watch), knowing that it's "half past ten" or "ten to eleven" will
become fashionable once again.

My first watch was a "cheap" ($15?) digital LED watch, c. 1978.  I got
a Timex mechanical watch for a graduation present a few years later,
but I guess I gave it more of a licking than it could stand, because I
remember tearing it apart less than 5 years later (because it didn't
work, not just to see what was inside).  I don't really miss the
Timex, but I miss those glowing red digits.

Much more recently, someone got me a modern BCD/binary watch from
ThinkGeek.  I like it, but I've been reading binary clocks since they
were popular when I was a kid.  I remember trying to find a binary
clock kit between about 1982 and 1992 and they just couldn't be found
anywhere.  That pendulum has certainly swung the other way (pun

Now if I could just find where I stashed my 4000-series CMOS and ~100
LED clock from the late 1970s that I picked up at a St Vincent
DePaul's a couple of years back - I need to find which of the 30ish
chips has a bad gate and consider replacing the LEDs with new,
non-age-dimmed ones.  It's a pretty neat clock, made in Indiana (can't
remember where right now), and has a couple of concentric rings of
LEDs to simulate analog hands.  It mostly worked when I got it home,
but there's a stray "ghost" hand that comes and goes as the time ticks
around the face.

So many ways to tell time in the modern era.  This is a huge change
from a few centuries ago, when a marked stick was close enough.


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