joshua schachter's blog

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I've always had a lot of difficulty waking up in the morning. To expedite that horrible process, I make use of several alarm clocks scattered around the room (never next to the bed, snooze button within easy reach.) The most hated of these is a unit that is so complicated to operate that more often than not, I simply resign myself to oversleeping instead of attempting to successfully navigate its interface. It even scores poorly in Slate's alarm clock round-up.

In the last millennium or so, we as a species perfected a mechanism for tracking the exact passage of time, allowing us first to provide the measure along which events occur, to then to explore and map our world, and then finally arrive five minutes late to meetings. While we have spent much effort to advance the state of timekeeping art, up to and including launching the network of orbital broadcasting clocks that make up our GPS navigational systems, I wonder how it has come to pass that something so universally important to civilized society gets so little attention in terms of use and design. I am always amazed that when I am in an airport, which by its very nature forces you to carefully attend the passage of time, fails to have more than the occasional display of the current time.

Alarm clocks are probably one of earliest of devices to propagate widely into our homes, so presumably some of the design is merely inertia. In a time where display complexity was significantly more costly than input complexity (a LED being way more complicated than a button) it was probably an appropriate design choice. However, these constraints are no longer quite so constraining; why have we not seen the iPod of the timekeeping world? Or is this, as a product, now so inexpensive to be unworthy of elegance?

Clearly, concepts such as Clocky, "an alarm clock that runs away and hides if you don't get out of bed on time" indicates that there is a great deal of effort yet to be put into the art of interrupting my sleep. And there is some innovation here and there.

So I guess the question is this: Why are the devices that are tasked with measuring the passage of our most precious resource so unloved and undesigned?