The Joys of Old-Fashioned, Low Tech Hardware

My clock isn’t smart, but it works even if US-East-1 is down

Simon Pitt
Debugger
Published in
7 min readAug 5, 2021

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I call him a clocker. Which makes sense because he’s a clock. Maybe “Tocker” would have been better, but he looks like a Clocker. And anyway, the name has stuck now.

Clocker is a mahogany Winchester chiming mantel clock. The chimes go off every quarter of an hour, like a naturally occurring Pomodoro every fifteen minutes. He’s an antique, which brings to mind collectors and dusty shops, but he came from eBay and was about the same price as a modern battery clock.

Clocker sits on my mantlepiece, with the wireless router on one side and a lightning cable on the other. It’s a strange, anachronistic collection. The future nestling against the past. Clocker probably dates from around 1920. If he’s treated well, there’s no reason why he won’t still be ticking and tocking in 2120. My wireless router dates from around April. I’ll be pleased if it’s still routing in a couple of years. This old clock stands in such stark contrast to everything else in my house. “I have a kitchen knife that I am going to use for the rest of my life,” Everest Pipkin remarked on Twitter, “I can’t say that about a single piece of electronics I own.” I think sometimes of the people who bought the $10,000 gold Apple Watch Edition (first generation), which now no longer receives software updates. Do they still use it and just accept that the software is slow and outdated? Imagine, in fifty years, receiving that “antique” watch from a Great Aunt’s will.

The problem is we keep wanting our electronics to do new things. It’s not just that they are fragile, no longer receive software updates or become slow, it’s that new things are invented rendering the current things obsolete. When it comes to clocks we haven’t added any new features lately. There are no new hours in a day. A minute is still a minute. 101-year-old Clocker’s feature set is pretty similar to any standard wall clock you would buy on Amazon. Except you have to wind him.

Clocker is an eight-day wind-up clock, which means that every week I use a little metal key to wind each of his winding holes until they won’t wind anymore. “Don’t overwind,” it says on the internet, and when I first start winding him, I am terrified that…

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Simon Pitt
Debugger

Media techie, software person, and web-stuff doer. Head of Corporate Digital at BBC, but views my own. More at pittster.co.uk