The modern alarm clock.
An object that we use every day, and rely upon when we are most vulnerable. We depend on this thing to know when to go to sleep, and when we have to wake up. Its the first thing we look at if we awaken in the middle of the night. We interact with this thing in the dark, and usually when we are tired and not quite thinking straight. If it doesn’t work correctly, which happens quite regularly, the day will be off to a stressful start.
A design failure.
As a human, I’ll spend about a third of my life sleeping. Unless I’m awake thinking about how annoying alarm clocks are. The one on my nightstand is typical of most that I’ve ever seen. My list of grievances against this appliance and its tyrannical brethren include:
- The display is too small to see without squinting (I don’t know about you, but I don’t wear my glasses while sleeping)
- AM vs PM is cryptically indicated by the presence or absence of a dot (the dot means which one exactly? and on which side?). While this isn’t a big deal for the time (which only gets set occasionally), it is a big problem for setting the alarm… Oops! So much for getting up at 4:00AM to catch that 6:00AM flight, the alarm was set for 4:00PM!
- The status of Alarm 1 and Alarm 2 are cryptically indicated by one of two dots (on the left? or right? or does that dot mean PM?) And in the dark, both dots look quite the same. Oops! Nice job setting Alarm 2 for 4:00AM, but I actually turned on Alarm 1 that doesn’t go on until 7:00AM.
- Corollary: Setting the time of the alarm doesn’t actually turn the alarm on (why would I set it, if I didn’t want to turn it on?)
- It takes two hands to set the time, program the alarm, or turn the alarm on: one to push the buttons or adjust the switch, and another to prevent the damn thing from sliding around.
- The buzzer. Unless the building I’m in happens to be on fire or something, I really don’t ever want to wake up to a shrill buzzer. But if the alarm switch is clicked to the wrong notch, BUZZZZZZZ!
- The volume and tuning knobs are easily jostled when cleaning (and which one is on which side?). So even if the switch is positioned at the correct notch, the sound may be off, blasting out at eleven, tuned to static, some weird Mexican station, or any of the above.
For years, I have looked for The Perfect Alarm Clock. There are giant size clocks, talking clocks, projecting clocks, and some cool open-source-hardware clocks. I like Adafruit’s Ice-Tube Clock Kit, as well as their MONOCHRON Open Source Clock Platform, and the awesomely giant Evil Mad Science Labs Alpha Clock Five. Sony’s (now discontinued) DASH HID-C10 Internet Alarm Clock is also interesting, in a bloated sort of way, as is Chumby for that matter. The Hack-n-Mod Open Source Sunrise Clock has some good ideas too. None are completely satisfying, but have been useful sources of inspiration.
So I Will Build It.