Setting clocks

The most uninteresting thing in the world is setting the time on a digital clock.

Cars have clocks on their radios or dashboards, and homes have wall clocks, and nightstand clocks, DVD players and wristwatches and dash cams. Everything has a clock. And if it’s not internet connected, you have to set it every six months for daylight savings time.

There are some ‘atomic’ clocks that set themselves based on the NIST broadcast thingi in colorado, but my experience has been that they only time they can set themselves is when there’s a blackout and there’s no other radio signal noise drowning out the signal from colorado. (not that I ever understood how the signal could bend around the curvature of the earth to get to my house in new york unless it’s bouncing off the atmosphere or something.)

Some people use their phones to solve most of their time problems, and now you can buy a watch that syncs to your phone for $15 that requires recharging everyday, so there’s progress for you.

But for those of us with older equipment like non-internet connected blu-ray players and free low-end dash cams, setting the time on digital clocks can be a pain. Simply because there is no standard interface for doing it.

I’ve been setting digital clocks since the 80s when they first came into existence and there is truly a marvel of different options when deciding how to design the clock setting mechanism. Do you have one button? Two? A rocker switch? Do you cycle through minutes as one number or the tens digit separately from the ones digit? Is there a button to reset the seconds to zero, does the selection of seconds-resetting come after the minutes or after the day setting? Do you cycle through the hours/minutes/seconds once then go to the main display or is there a separate button to get out of setting-the-time mode. Do you always go forward, or can you go backwards? Some clocks will go forward slowly and then speed up if you hold the button down. Some speed-up modes just makes the minutes go by faster, some make them minutes increment by 10 at a time. Some include the hours so you don’t have to select if you’re setting hours vs minutes, you do them both at once, but if you pass the time you want, you have to hold the button down for a long time to skip the next 23 hours and 59 minutes to get back to the minute you wanted. And if you can go backwards, you can only seems to go backwards slowly to compensate for having overshot the time you want going forward, which creates lots of angst when you have to set the clock backwards an hour. Do you go forward and sit through the 23 hours? Even in fast mode that takes a while, or do you suck it up and just sit through the going backwards in slow mode. You’ve all been there, you know what I’m talking about.

Just when you thought there was no way to possibly design a new way to set the time on a digital timepiece… I recently got a $4 watch from some noname brand of watchmaker, and they did something pretty neat: The watch has the feature of showing 12 hour am/pm time or 24 hour time. Every other timepiece I’ve ever used had a separate mode setting to cycle between the two options. This watch cycles through all the 24 hours of 1-12am/pm options and then through the 0-24 hour options, and you implicitly are selecting which of the 12/24 hour mode options you want by which hour setting you stop on.

Why would anybody bother to write a diatribe on all the stupid ways you need to figure out to set a clock?

Why did you bother to read to the end?

It just seems to me it is unlike anything else in this world. Digital clocks have been in homes and cars for over 30 years and everybody has had to deal with them, and in all that time there is no one obvious standard or monopoly system that has won out.

What is it that makes this procedure such an oddity?


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