Alarm clocks are something we all take for granted, but who invented the alarm clock?
The best knowledge we have on this subject indicates that alarm clocks were invented at around 250 BC in ancient Greece.
In ancient Greece there were of course no alarm clocks as we know them. Instead they had created a kind of water clock. Water clocks used a regularly dripping stream of water to measure time. The alarm function was set off when a lever triggered a kind of whistling sound.
Besides water clocks, the other earliest kind of clocks on record were sundials.
Everyone knows that sundials measure the time based on the position of the sun; many of us still have sundials in our gardens to this day, simply because they look neat and are useful as well as decorative. Sundials, however, had no alarm mechanisms. “So if they had no alarm function, what the heck are sundials doing appearing in this post?”, you might ask. To that I would reply, “Hey buddy, go write your own blog!,” simply because I’m unable to think of anything wittier at the moment. Ok, I digress…
So when we refer to alarm clocks, actually we have in mind the first mechanical alarm clocks, and the first of these were invented probably sometime in the 14th century. The first mechanical alarm clocks were not for home use, however. Instead, these were striking clock towers on public display.
Towers with clocks on them sometimes had devices which would strike off the hours so that everyone in a town or village would know what time it was. Many of us have clock towers near where we live that still strike off the hours each day.
Regarding the first small mechanical alarm clocks, many attribute the first alarm clock of this kind to inventor Taqi al-Din in the Turkish empire. He wrote a book back in 1559 describing how he’d built a kind of mechanical alarm clock.
Another early mechanical alarm clock was invented by Levi Hutchins from New Hampshire, USA. Mr. Hutchins created an alarm clock that always went off at 4:00 a.m., since he wanted to wake up at this time each and every day; but his alarm clock was not available for sale.
Which brings us to the subject of commercial alarm clocks: when were the first alarm clocks manufactured for sale?
The first patent for an alarm clock dates back to 1847 and was awarded to French inventor Antoine Redier. The Seth Thomas Clock Company was awarded a different patent in 1876 for its small bedside alarm clocks, and these probably became the first smaller alarm clocks for home use that were actually manufactured.
So, by the late 1870s, alarm clocks for the home had become popular and were being sold in larger quantities. One of the first alarm clock manufacturers in the entire world was the company Westclox.
This brings us, more or less, to the present day and age.
The most significant recent innovation regarding alarm clocks happened of course in early 2006, when the online alarm clock was invented, thus beginning a new chapter in alarm clock history!
To that we can only say: hey Alarm Clocks, you rock !