All the Clocks are Broken

Now that it's Power Failure Season again, I'm reminded that I live with too many clocks. Why does every damned thing in my apartment want to know what time it is? "Oh, we need a display here for another reason, let's put a clock on it!" Gaah. I'm just not that interested in the current time that everything needs to be telling me! And that aside, things shouldn't have clocks that you can't turn off unless they run NTP.

I think I have 6 clocks in here, and only two of them are on purpose.

One of them makes a token effort to get the current time from GPS, but of course in Power Failure Season it's too overcast for that to work properly.

My microwave doesn't even have the decency to sit there blinking 12:00 -- before it will let you cook anything, it starts counting up from midnight.

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32 Responses:

  1. Ryan Finnie says:

    I have four clocks at home. An alarm clock next to my bed which, while it won't work in a power outage, the timekeeping function itself is battery-backed. A wall clock in my living room, with those old-timey hands that move in a circular fashion (crazy, I know). A digital wall clock in my office above the doorway, which sets itself against WWVB, and I don't think I've changed the batteries since I bought it circa 2001. And the microwave, which helpfully goes to and stays at ":00" after the first time you use it after a power outage.

    Life is good.

  2. Tony says:

    Duct tape.

    (stolen from Tim Allen or Jeff Foxworthy, I forget which)

  3. piku says:

    I can't adjust the clock in my car. The clock is set by the radio, but since I got the showroom demo car with a fancy "entertainment system" (embedded Windows CE computer, its awesome... and hilarious when it crashes) the controls to adjust the dash clock aren't there.

    I await the day I have to disconnect the battery and it becomes another 12:00 flasher and gets the ductape fix applied to it.

  4. John Bloom says:

    Don't you wish you could still use the blink tag here?

  5. Nick Lamb says:

    I have a different policy. I think if something has a display that can't currently do anything else useful it should tell me the time. So this is probably all my fault.

    But I agree that it should always be the right time whether from NTP, GPS, DAB or wherever. My friends bought me a nice alarm clock years ago that had a full calendar and real 24 hour clock so I could no longer be confused as to "which 6 o'clock" it was or indeed which year it was. Even that clock was wrong for two hours per year, it checked the exact time just before the hour, instead of just after and thus with DST changes...

    Most things I own do NTP (PCs, desk phone, tablets, mobile, Squeezebox) and the old-fashioned GPS I own does GPS time, but the oven and microwave in the kitchen are too dumb. A friend tells me one of his appliances offered an optional automatic time module but the extraordinary price forced him to concede that accurate time-telling by white goods is just not that high a priority in his life.

  6. Conveniently my microwave will blank the clock (and keep it that way until the next power failure) if the clock button is pressed to set it, then cancel is pressed.

    • Ben says:

      So instead of needing to punch buttons to adjust the clock display after every power outage, you need only to punch buttons to adjust the clock display after every power outage?

      • Since it goes into clock set mode automatically, it's just a single button. Even better, it's one less clock to skew. I've already got a clock in the kitchen near the microwave, so it's nice to be able to turn it off.

        This is a low-mid level GE one; I think all the other similar ones I've seen do the same thing. I think this is a great feature, although I don't believe it was documented in the manual.

  7. skreidle says:

    I was actually disappointed that the DirecTV box I got has no clock (as the Comcast box did}, because it means there are zero immediately-visible clocks when we're watching TV. The oven and microwave have them (with different power failure modes); we had an alarm clock/radio in the bedroom; but after ditching that, there are zero visible clocks in that room either, and multiple smartphones suffice as clocks and alarms.

    • zaba says:

      I prefer the opposite set-up. The only two visible clocks in our house are on the microwave and the oven. I feel far less stressed thinking of "100% accurate time" than I do, "It's about 6 p.m. Let's get dinner going." (BTW, I have kids and they have set bed and bath times, etc., so I am conscious of time. I just don't like to be super-conscious of time.)

      In the case of the oven, it will blink after a power failure (which I don't like) until I have to use it, which forces me to set it. In those cases, it gets set one minute from whatever it is blinking. That clock is always off.

      The microwave on the other hand... I'm leaving that for another comment.

      Oh, I do have one more visible clock when I need it most. If I fall asleep watching something on our Roku, the "screen-saver" shows the time which is really handy to see if I am oversleeping (pressed snooze on my phone too much) or have a couple more hours to sleep.

  8. Glaurung says:

    I long ago gave up on setting the clock on non-clock devices. Either it sets it itself (computer, Ipad, mobile phone) or it just doesn't get set at all (microwave, stove). As for real clocks, we have two types: led alarm clocks built by Sony with built in lithium battery backup that never forget what time it is (and they reset themselves for daylight savings time shifts to boot) and battery powered lcd clocks bought through ebay.

    • John Bloom says:

      Non-updatable devices that automagically set themselves for daylight savings time are one session of congress away from being the most annoying thing on the planet

      • Glaurung says:

        The Sony clocks in question can be adjusted to have whatever DST rules apply in your location.

        I will of course have to reset the DST (and the time) when I have to change the lithium backup batteries after ten years, but I think I can live with that.

  9. All it would take is a thorough reverse engineering of the microcontroller logic and firmware, and reprogramming it with code that eliminates the clock function.

    Can't we hire interns for this sort of thing? Is there a University that would give undergrads course credit for such work? There's a clear benefit to society.

  10. Leolo says:

    Or you could get an UPS, run wires from it to all the outlets that have devices that have clocks plugged into them and ... OK, maybe not such a great idea.

  11. John Fiala says:

    What I find annoying is that my VCR automatically corrects for DST...but it corrects for the _old_ daylight savings time, so either I have to adjust it by hand four times a year, or I let it be wrong by an hour between the new DST adjustment and the old one.

  12. zaba says:

    I feel your pain.

    1. No, $Vendor, you don't need another display. Don't put another clock there.

    2. I also don't need to know the exact nanosecond we are in. I have a cellphone and computer that give accurate (enough) time. I don't need 14 other devices staring me down with their c(l)ocks and I sure as hell don't want to reset them all after a power outage.

    3. I just lost an awesome microwave. If you didn't set the time, the display stayed blank! The only time the display was on was when you were using it and it was actually counting time. I replaced it with a freebie (gotta love moms) which in many ways is much better.

    a. it won't work until you set the time.
    b. that time is in an incredibly bright blue. (bright enough to leak into our bedroom).
    c. which doesn't match the green on the display of the oven which has to show time in order for the oven to work. (It would be like #0740FA on this page, only much brighter.)
    d. isn't as "polite" as the old microwave. Yes, I heard that the food is done. No, I am not taking it out right away. It's too hot, or it calls to sit for a while. Don't send an annoying beep every 30 seconds.

    tl;dr - the only clock I need is a dali clock?

    • Max says:

      On my GE microwave that beeps insistently after cooking, 'cancel' was a valid option when setting the clock. It turned it off.

      If you are lucky, it may work on yours.

      Also, recent experience is that Hotpoint stoves will function without showing the clock display.

  13. zaba says:

    Crud... forgot to ask... is the title in reference to the old C$C song or a slightly less old Firewater song (Tod's current project) or is there some cultural reference to which I am completely clueless?

  14. phuzz says:

    Apart from various computing devices the only clocks I have in my room are a digital clock which sets it's self via radio (and has a retro fitted stand made of cardboard to mount it sideways, so it's easier to read from my bed), and an actual analogue wall clock.

  15. Steen says:

    Thanks to you and this page, now every time I see a blinking clock display I have to go listen to Cop Shoot Cop.