Since the beginning of civilization, humans have been tracking time. What amazes me is that no single culture can claim to have invented the clock. There are examples of time-keeping devices from across the globe and spanning hundreds of years.
The earliest devices were water clocks, sundials, candle clocks, hourglasses, and roosters. Mechanization paved the way for clock towers, grandfather clocks, cuckoo clocks, factory whistles, kitchen timers, and pocket and wrist watches.
However, the alarm clock itself is a modern invention, making its debut less than 200 years ago. But they have forever changed our society.
1800s – Mechanical Bells
Americans get to take credit for the first alarm clock in the late 1700s. Levi Hutchins devised a clock that would wake him a single specific time – 4am (1). He never patented or manufactured his alarm though.
50 years later, “Frenchman Antoine Redier became the first to patent an adjustable alarm clock in 1847. The adjustable alarm clock allowed the user to set a time to awake” (2). People now had a way to rise that wasn’t strictly dependent on the sun.
1900s – Electric Chimes
The turn of the 20th century saw rapid advancements in clock technology. This was the age of the automobile, telephone, and airplane. The first electric alarm clock was released in 1912 by the Warren Clock Company.
Its creator, Henry Warren, experimented with batteries and self-starting synchronous motors. Thanks to his tinkering, by “the 1920s, inexpensive electric versions, plugged into house current, appeared … By 1933, roughly sixty percent of all clocks made and sold annually—with and without alarms—were electric” (3).
The next evolution in alarm clocks is thanks to the electrification of American communities. Several U.S. companies in the 1940s released radio clocks – the kind that many of us grew up with and became ubiquitous in hotels (4). Users could now be woken up to the sounds of their favorite DJ and morning jams.
The following decades also gave rise to the snooze button, digital and liquid crystal displays, and portable models.
Modern Times – Computerized Alarms
Computers opened the world of alarms to customization. You no longer were stuck with a blaring buzzer. You can now pick whatever sound suits your mood and personality – a fun ringtone, soothing nature sounds, or favorite songs.
There are countless bedside clocks and smartphone alarms. There are even fanciful versions that squirt water or run away on wheels so you have to physically get out of bed and catch it.
Today – Light Awake
We’re entering an era where a harsh sound is no longer required for a wakeup call. We’re returning to the more natural approach of our earliest ancestors – using light to stimulate our circadian rhythms. The Light Awake app is a gentle, holistic way to start your day.
Create your perfect wakeup experience by downloading the app below from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.
1) Alarm clock invented in city, Concord Monitor – https://www.concordmonitor.com/vintage-views-35234139
2) A 2,000-Year History of Alarm Clocks, Atlas Obscura – https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/a-2000year-history-of-alarm-clocks
3) Telechron Electric Alarm Clock, National Museum of American History – https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_856837
4) 5 Iconic Mashup Inventions That Have Stood the Test of Time, History.com – https://www.history.com/news/mashup-hybrid-inventions-iphone-clock-radio-stand-mixer