On the edge of extinction: The Clock

ClockThe clock above the sixth grade classroom doorway reads 3:21. Nine minutes and the bell will sound signaling the end of the school day and they can stop identifying irregular verbs. It’s Friday, which makes clock-watching doubly momentous.

Peeking up from their notebooks and books, the kids count down the minutes to the weekend. Each tick of the second hand brings freedom closer and closer.

3:26: The teacher glances at the clock and around the classroom, then shakes her head and says, “I can see your attention spans are glued to the clock so let’s call it a day.”

Books slam shut. Notebooks rustle. Backpacks are stuffed and zipped. Chatter escalates with plans for the weekend: the dance in the gym that night, Emma’s birthday party at the bowling alley Saturday, Vikings vs. Packers on Sunday.

3:29: The teacher flips her hand with a “Have a good weekend, but take at least an hour to study for Monday’s test. Now, get outta here.” Chairs scrap on the floor just as the bell sounds.

3:30 on the dot.

Clock Watchers

As you read that little story, did you remember sneaking peeks at the classroom clock as it moved at a snail’s pace? Did you “hear” the seconds tick off? Did you “see” the minute hand land smack-dab on the six as the bell rang? If you’re over 30, probably. Any younger than that and your eyes were focused on a rectangular digital display on your cell phone or iPad.

digital clockMy jaw dropped last week when I read about a study that showed just 1-in-10 Oklahoma City kids ages 6-12 own a watch. And only 1-in-5 know how to read it. More than 150 students took the time-telling survey, which featured 15 questions. Only 31 students passed. Only 15 earned perfect scores.

Say what?

Time in your hands, not on the wall

For today’s youth, the means to tell time is in their hand, not on their wrist or on the wall. Clocks have become passé, ignored—gulp—old-fashioned.

To refresh your memory (pay attention, kids), the clock is that round thing found on walls with numbers 1 through 12 spaced at equal intervals edging the inside of a circle. It has a long pointy stick (the hour), a short pointy stick (the minute), and a long yet narrow pointy stick (seconds) moving in a rhythm fast enough to watch. The numbers could be I through XII; 3, 6, 9, 12; or III, VI, IX, XII. There might be 60 little hash marks (minutes) spaced evenly apart. (Not hash TAGS!) But the time-sensitive principle is the same.

Just like reading books, telling time has gone digital. However, reading on a digital device such as a Kindle or iPad is the same as reading on paper. Letters make up words which make sentences, which make paragraphs, which make pages (or screen grabs).

Telling time on a clock is very different from digital. You have to interpret the placement of the three sticks as they travel around the clock, thus it takes a second (sorry, couldn’t resist) to determine the time. I admit digital is easier to read. One glance tells you it’s 12:10. And while some clocks can be read in the dark, digital clocks seem to be made for the dark.

Time Stands Still

So what’s the future of the boring, has-been clock?

Big BenHere in Minneapolis, should the $2.1 million to overhaul the clock tower atop City Hall be used to convert it to digital?

Can you imagine what London’s Big Ben clock would look like digitally?

What would the mouse run up in Hickory Dickery Dock?

And what about the sun dial?

Just some things to ponder as you change the digital clock on the microwave or climb on the step stool to change your 12 Birds of North America clock that hangs above the TV for Daylight Savings Time.

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