About 1581 Galileo noticed the characteristic timekeeping property of the pendulum. The Dutch astronomer and physicist Christiaan Huygens was responsible for the practical application of the pendulum as a time controller in clocks from 1656 onward. Huygens’s invention brought about a great increase in the importance and extent of clock making. Clocks, weight-driven and with short pendulums, were encased in wood and made to hang on the wall, but these new eight-day wall clocks had very heavy weights, and many fell off weak plaster walls and were destroyed. The next step was to extend the case to the floor, and the grandfather clock was born. In 1670 the long, or seconds, pendulum was introduced by English clock makers with the anchor escapement.
In atomic clocks the controller is an evacuated microwave cavity attached to a microwave oscillator controlled by a microprocessor. A thin gas of caesium atoms is released into the cavity where they are exposed to microwaves. A laser measures how many atoms have absorbed the microwaves, and an electronic feedback control system called a phase-locked loop tunes the microwave oscillator until it is at the frequency that causes the atoms to vibrate and absorb the microwaves. Then the microwave signal is divided by digital counters to become the clock signal.
The tick duration must be positive. If it has a part smaller than a whole millisecond, then the whole duration must divide into one second without leaving a remainder. All normal tick durations will match these criteria, including any multiple of hours, minutes, seconds and milliseconds, and sensible nanosecond durations, such as 20ns, 250,000ns and 500,000ns.
Some predecessors to the modern clock may be considered as "clocks" that are based on movement in nature: A sundial shows the time by displaying the position of a shadow on a flat surface. There is a range of duration timers, a well-known example being the hourglass. Water clocks, along with the sundials, are possibly the oldest time-measuring instruments. A major advance occurred with the invention of the verge escapement, which made possible the first mechanical clocks around 1300 in Europe, which kept time with oscillating timekeepers like balance wheels.
Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy (like pillows), but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we have People’s Choice, in which we find the best-reviewed (that’s four-to-five-star reviews and lots of ‘em) products and single out the most convincing. While we’ve tried to find the nicest-sounding alarm clocks and ended up with picks for the best alarm clock and a voice-controlled alarm clock, we wanted to see what other ways to wake up were out there. So we found the best alarm clocks on Amazon, according to hyperenthusiastic reviewers. (Note that reviews have been edited for length and clarity.)