Until advances in the late twentieth century, navigation depended on the ability to measure latitude and longitude. Latitude can be determined through celestial navigation; the measurement of longitude requires accurate knowledge of time. This need was a major motivation for the development of accurate mechanical clocks. John Harrison created the first highly accurate marine chronometer in the mid-18th century. The Noon gun in Cape Town still fires an accurate signal to allow ships to check their chronometers. Many buildings near major ports used to have (some still do) a large ball mounted on a tower or mast arranged to drop at a pre-determined time, for the same purpose. While satellite navigation systems such as the Global Positioning System (GPS) require unprecedentedly accurate knowledge of time, this is supplied by equipment on the satellites; vehicles no longer need timekeeping equipment.
Most digital clocks use electronic mechanisms and LCD, LED, or VFD displays; many other display technologies are used as well (cathode ray tubes, nixie tubes, etc.). After a reset, battery change or power failure, these clocks without a backup battery or capacitor either start counting from 12:00, or stay at 12:00, often with blinking digits indicating that the time needs to be set. Some newer clocks will reset themselves based on radio or Internet time servers that are tuned to national atomic clocks. Since the advent of digital clocks in the 1960s, the use of analog clocks has declined significantly.

The most accurate mechanical timekeeper is the Shortt pendulum clock; it makes use of the movement described above for electric master clock systems. The Shortt pendulum clock consists of two separate clocks, one of which synchronizes the other. The timekeeping element is a pendulum that swings freely, except that once every half minute it receives an impulse from a gently falling lever. This lever is released by an electrical signal transmitted from its slave clock. After the impulse has been sent, a synchronizing signal is transmitted back to the slave clock that ensures that the impulse to the free pendulum will be released exactly a half minute later than the previous impulse. The pendulum swings in a sealed box in which the air is kept at a constant, low pressure. Shortt clocks in observatories are kept in a room, usually a basement, where the temperature remains nearly constant, and under these conditions they can maintain the correct time to within a few thousandths of a second per day.


Similar to our #8 selection, this app uses a gradual brightness increase to slowly wake you out of your sleep, before laying down the hammer and buzzing to wake you up. If you’re waking up angry or abruptly (more on this in a moment), then this is the perfect trick to keep ahead. Just ensure your alarm clock also has a USB charging slot to keep your phone nearby. This works well if you position it differently than your gradual light alarm clock, as if you’re getting two sunrises instead of one.
But where OK to Wake! really shines (pun intended) is in its unique feature that parents love; the clock will glow green and show a cute face when it's an acceptable time for your little one to get out of bed. That means even very young children can learn when it's okay to go looking for mommy or daddy — no need to be able to actually read the time. As your child grows, you can stop using the glow feature, and simply use the device as a regular, albeit cuter than average, alarm clock.
“I was looking for a small, battery-operated clock with a light for my bedside. I wake often in the middle of the night, and I do not keep my cell phone beside the bed (bad idea, as it is tempting to use it, and that does not help sleep). I had a small battery-operated clock I purchased from Walmart years ago, and it finally broke after being knocked off the bedside table too many times. … So I looked on Amazon, and this is the best replacement I could find. It is slightly larger but does the job. I push the top button and can see the time without waking my partner. Nice little clock for the price, and if I knock it off during the night and break it, it has not broken my budget!”
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