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Dave Wilson

Drowning in a Sea of Clocks

April 05, 2001|Dave Wilson | Dave Wilson is The Times' personal technology columnist

By now, you've probably realized that daylight saving time began Sunday. But if you're like me, you probably still haven't reset every single one of the dozens of clocks that clutter up your life.

Lose an hour? I'd be grateful if I lost only an hour. I figure it takes most of us at least three hours to get everything back in the right time zone each year when we spring forward and fall back because of the huge and growing number of clocks built into our gizmos.

We are drowning in a sea of timepieces--and staring as another horological tsunami races to shore. CD players. VCRs. Televisions. Coffee makers. Remote controls. Pretty much anything that runs on electricity has a clock these days.

We're even seeing stuff that

doesn't normally require batteries morph into juice-gobbling timepieces. I have a pen that also keeps time. Actually, it keeps pretty good time. The pen part doesn't work all that well, but I'm assuming that's just operator error.

Is there a point to all this chronophilia? Do I really need a clock built into my oven and into the microwave that's built into the top of the stove? Wouldn't, say, a timer work just as well?

I confess this is a largely theoretical question for me since I have no idea whether my oven actually works, having never turned it on, so maybe I'm a little off base on this one.

But my point--and I do have one--is that we're losing millions of hours of productivity annually resetting all these clocks. As more and more gadgets invade our lives, this problem gets worse.

I suspect it reached critical mass this year and is in fact responsible for our declining economy. Do you think it's any coincidence that the stock market took a dive in October, when we were all so giddy about "gaining" an hour?

Like all good paranoid fantasies, mine has a villain: the Japanese. Japanese electronics designers have been deliberately building clocks into everything in hopes of weakening our industrial might.

Now, you might say, "Dave, that's crazy talk. The Japanese have a lot more of these gadgets than we do. They're gadget freaks, man. They'd be hurt by this as much as we are, or even more." Which shows how much you know, pal.

The Japanese don't have daylight saving time.

They used to. But it was only because we made them. I am not making this up.

Under the U.S. occupation after World War II, America imposed daylight saving time on Japan for several years until the final treaty was signed and we withdrew our troops.

Who's crazy now, huh? We taught the Japanese all about daylight saving time, and they've figured out how to use it against us.

Think about it. Those digital clocks are downright diabolical. Setting them requires keen eyesight, a steady hand and a whole lot of spare time. Something that you will no longer have once the number of these devices in your household reaches critical mass.

Still think I'm nuts? How's this for evidence: Only devices made by the Japanese ignore the issue. Consider Microsoft's Windows operating system.

It is, by any measure, a horror show, a veritable cyber-torture device clearly designed with little regard for the needs and capabilities of the average user.

Incredibly, though, there is one single thing that Windows does right, something that few of our other gizmos can even comprehend. It automatically adjusts for daylight saving time.

I need hardly point out that this product is made right here in the U.S. of A. I believe I've proved my case.

So how can we fight against this plot?

The smartest thing we could do is simply ignore the DST shift back and forth for our lesser devices.

Does it really matter if the time display on my TV is an hour off?

In a practical sense, no. But if you're like me, you can't help but feel a little jolt of fear when your gaze alights on an incorrectly set clock and you suddenly think you're running an hour late before your brain reminds you that that clock is always fast. Except for half the year when it's not.

So I'm taking the plunge this year. I'm disabling clocks that serve no function. That's right, my oven clock blinks "00:00" forlornly, the LCD display on the pen is blank, and I'm giving serious consideration to just putting a piece of tape over the coffee-maker clock.

Join with me, America, and we'll be back on top again. Any minute now.

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