Ways to manage time have been around since the dawn of time, but they have not always looked like the sleek modern smart assistants that function as the alarm clocks of today. In “A 2,000 -year History of Alarm Clocks,” an article written by Naomi Russo, Russo explores alarm clocks over the years.
Russo explains that, in the year 725, a mathematician, engineer, Buddhist monk and astronomer by the name of Yi Xing was the first man to ever conceptualize an alarm clock remotely resembling the grandfather clock of today.
However, even before that, in the fourth century BCE, Plato, one of the most influential philosophers of ancient times, constructed his own version of an alarm clock. Water would trickle into funnels of various sizes, slowly filling up the funnel for as long as the alarm was set. When the funnel filled, the water would begin to trickle out of the funnel and into a new contraption that would whistle like a teakettle as it began to fill, effectively waking up whoever was using the alarm.
Even in ancient Japan, people used candles with nails drilled into its sides as alarm clocks. The candle would burn until reaching a nail, and then the nail would drop down into the metal dish at the candle’s base and wake the sleeping user. Some people would even drill multiple nails to be used as an antique snooze button.
Now, there have been many advancements in modern-day alarm clocks, as noted by Dr. Anthony Corso, associate professor of computing, software and data sciences. Corso explains how smart assistants such as Alexa and Google work in light of the rise of technological alarm clocks.
“Basically a subcomponent of artificial intelligence, which is just translating human speech into something that a computer can understand,” Corso said. “So on the alarm clock side of those things, all you’re getting is voice-activated manual commands that you would have normally done in the past.”
With this sudden rise in technology use with smart devices, Corso does hold some apprehension about the possible effects of long-term exposure to electromagnetic interference (EMI).
“It’s something to be concerned about, as people utilize cellular technology as their form of alarm clock, keeping it by their head when they sleep, which is the worst place it could be,” Corso said.
“You’re talking six to eight hours of exposure a day. No matter what the research says, I think that there’s more behind what the research says about it not being harmful to us. It has to have some impact on us. It’s an area that I would really like to see more research done in. So my perfect alarm clock, while still being intuitive, as smart assistants are, would have less EMI.”
As technology progresses, Brenden Mendoza, freshman biomedical engineering major, said he believes that traditional analog alarm clocks will become obsolete.
“They went from acoustic to advanced technology, more specifically artificial intelligence voice command,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza uses a phone alarm presently, but hopes in the future to use what he calls the perfect alarm clock.
“(My perfect alarm clock would not) make sound, but would send an electrical signal to your brain to wake you up,” Mendoza said.
Jeremiah Rockortiz, freshman mechanical engineering major, said that the importance of alarm clocks comes from the fact that society values time.
“Time is important, and humans can’t do everything on their own,” Rockortiz said.
However, to Rockortiz, the perfect alarm clock would be something different from that of Mendoza.
“(My perfect alarm clock would be) wearable, a flexible Apple watch that can stay on your wrist,” Rockortiz said.
Looking back at the expansive history of alarm clocks, it is a stark contrast against what these devices used to be, what they are now and what they have the potential to one day become.