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Is there any historical evidence of methods that people used to wake up early before widespread use of mechanical alarm clocks? Or is the concept of 'getting up early' an invention of the industrial age and the creation of artificial light?
Source: Mentalfloss.com, 7 Ways People Woke Up, Pre-Alarm Clock:
1. BLADDER CONTROL Early man drank tons and tons of water if he needed to wake up before the sun. Why? Well, if you're over the age of 30 or so, you probably know what getting up in the middle of the night to urinate is all about. The custom of "over-drinking" before bed was even utilized by Native Americans well into the 20th century.
2. THE CLEPSYDRA Speaking of water, the clepsydra, or water clock, was used by the earliest civilizations for thousands of years. They weren't so much clocks as they were timers, working in much the same way a common hourglass works. It wasn't until 245 BCE that Ctesibius of Alexandria improved the clepsydra, or "water thief" as it was known, and created the world's first mechanical clock. It's mind-boggling to think about what Ctesibius accomplished: Seasonal cycles required irregular water levels be dispensed into a receiving vessel with equidistant hour-marks, while daily cycles required varying hour-marks and regular efflux. Making the clepsydra an alarm clock required nothing more than a floating bob that struck an alarm once it reached a desired level. Later versions turned gears, signaling an alarm or even springing a catapult that launched a pellet into a metallic plate.
3. RELIGIOUS WAKE-UP CALLS In many early Christian societies, bells called churchgoers to prayer in the morning. Religious bells also served to mark the passage of time throughout the day before people wore watches. In most Islamic traditions, audible tones and prayers marked the start of the day (just as they do today). The Fajr (literally "dawn") is the first of five daily prayers blasted out through the village. Four more prayers follow the sun and help mark the passage of time, day in, day out.
4. PEG CLOCKS About the year 1555, Taqi al-Din Muhammad ibn Ma'ruf invented a few different types of mechanical alarm clocks, including one that would sound at any desired time. This was achieved by placing a peg into a hole on the face of the clock. Taqi al-Din was born in Syria and schooled in Cairo. Similar clocks were also developed around the same time in Western Europe.
5. THE KNOCKER-UP The Knocker-Up (also referred to as a Knocker-Upper) gained prominence during the Industrial Revolution, using a long stick with wire or a knob affixed to the end to rouse customers at a desired time. Clients would agree verbally in advance, or simply post a preferred time on doors or windows. For a few pence a week, clients could rest assured knowing their Knocker Upper would not leave until he (Knocker Ups were almost always men) was certain a person was awake. Larger factories and mills often employed their own Knocker Ups to ensure laborers made it to work on time.
6. THE FACTORY WHISTLE At the dawn of the Industrial Age, workers lived around the factory at which they worked, and would wake at the sound of the factory whistle. Steel and textile mills drew in farmers from the countryside, and like that, ding-ding, the clock ruled the roost. Time was always money. But now time could also be regulated more easily. Work was no longer driven by the season; rather it was divided into units of time. It was the factory whistle, not the rising sun or the chirping birds, that called people to work.
7. LEVI HUTCHENS'S 4 A.M. ALARM In 1787, Levi Hutchens of Concord, New Hampshire, invented another incipient alarm clock. Built into a simple pine box, a gear mechanism set off a bell. However, the bell on his clock could ring only at 4 a.m., not coincidentally the time Levi needed to get up for work. Finally, on October 24, 1876, a mechanical wind-up alarm clock that could be set for any time was patented by Seth E Thomas.
The History of Waking Up: Humans Edition
Breaking up is hard to do, and so is waking up. From cave to luxury condo, learn about mankind's greatest advances in wakeup tech.
What is the best way to get woken up at a preset time? As we continue to make history with our sleep tracking devices, let’s go back into time and list the previous solutions.
The sun (since forever)
Even though early humans found shelter in dark caves at night (but not without first driving out its animal occupants), they lived by the sun — waking up as the sun rose and going to sleep at sunset. At dawn, the increasing level of light woke them up gradually. At dusk, the exposure to the dark favored the onset of sleep. With no artificial light and before the controlled use of fire, there wasn’t much to do at night anyway!
Apart from all constraints, this is the most natural way to wake up.
You cannot preset the wake-up time.
The bladder (since forever)
At one point, men must have figured out that they woke up earlier in the morning when they had been drinking more water than usual before going to bed (their full bladders prompting them to get up). But why would they want to do that? After all, there were no “punch-clock” jobs at the time.
Even though this is a rather primitive solution, it is clever. You become the alarm clock! Yay biohacking.
The lack of accuracy (you need to take all the fluids ingested during the day into account).
Roosters (since 9000 BC)
As humans gathered in tribes and villages, they were able to go to bed after sunset (thanks to campfires) and to wake up after sunrise (they no longer lived outdoors). For these sedentary men, roosters served as natural alarm clocks. Indeed, they like to sing in the early morning to mark their territory before they can be seen. And cock crows are particularly loud, reaching between 50 and 60 dB.
Incidentally, the rooster’s timing is perfect, as the farmer needs to milk his cows early on through the day.
Come off it! What a shrill sound! Plus, you can forget sleeping late on weekends.
Water alarm clocks (since 300 BC)
It is in Egypt and in Babylon that this kind of time-measuring device was first used. Water-clocks leverage the relatively steady flow of liquid going through a vessel to measure and tell time. It wasn’t until 300 BC that a water-clock was fitted with some kind of alarm system, supposedly by philosopher Plato. Fifty years later, Hellenistic inventor Ctesibius created a more sophisticated version that was able to drop pebbles onto some sort of cymbal, or to blow trumpets, at the desired time.
It’s waterproof. Joking aside, this wake-up solution was probably an amazing breakthrough at the time.
Note that this marks the beginning of the “Annoying Wake-Up Sounds” era.
Candles (from 960 CE to the 20th century)
As they burn at a more or less consistent speed, candles were used to tell the time. The earliest versions of these candle-clocks were the graduated ones used in China. A European variation of the concept had metal balls or nails trapped in them: as the candle was slowly burning down, it would release them and they would fall into a metal can, making a sound that was supposed to get you out of bed at a preset time.
At that point in history, this was the most accurate solution, if we choose to only consider systems that allow the selection of the alarm time.
Yet another startling wake-up experience, and a fire hazard to boot.
Weight-driven clocks (around the 13th century)
It is in Italian cities that large mechanical clocks first appeared, built on top of towers. Taking advantage of the Earth’s gravitational field, this type of clock uses weights and cords to store energy and unleash it (when a weight falls down and pulls the cord, it drives the clock’s mechanism). Around the 15th century, some of these mechanical clocks were improved by the addition of a user-settable alarm: a pin placed in a hole would trigger an alarm at the time of your choice.
With the addition of a pendulum in the middle of the 17th century, weight-driven clocks reached an unprecedented level of accuracy (fewer than 10 seconds a day).
On early models, you had to wind the clock every 20 minutes, which is a time-suck, to say the least.
Spring-driven clocks (beginning of the 16th century)
Peter Henlein of Nuremberg, regarded as the inventor of the first watches, developed spring-powered clocks. Replacing the weights by springs, he was able to create portable clocks (#WearableTech). In 1876, more than 350 years later, Seth E. Thomas patented the first user-settable mechanical wind-up alarm clock.
It’s the first time you could bring a reliable time-telling machine with you (pocket sundials already existed, but they are not as accurate).
Not very accurate. It took around 500 years for spring-driven clocks to achieve isochronism (maintaining equal intervals of time).
The knocker-uppers (from the 1760s to the 1920s)
In England and Ireland, at a time where alarm clocks and telephones were still uncommon, the knocker-uppers were in charge of waking up people. Equipped with either a long bamboo stick or a short baton, they would walk up to your house and knock on your bedroom window until you showed up. In exchange, they were paid a few pence each week. Mary Smith was one of them, and she roused people from sleep by shooting dried peas at their bedroom windows using a rubber tube.
The first individual wake-up calls!
Knocks like that are stressful. And there’s no way to get woken up at the best time, from a sleep cycle point of view.
Factory whistles (around the 1850s)
During the Industrial Revolution, workers often lived in the vicinity of the factory at which they worked — hence the idea to equip them with whistles that would wake everybody up.
No cost to you, and no need to worry about maintenance.
Doesn’t let you pick the time. And it’s another unpleasant sound to wake up to.
Alarm clocks (since the 1940s)
Invented by James F. Reynolds, when the USA resumed the production of clocks. Indeed, during the Second World War, American factories had to support the nation’s war effort and therefore focus on manufacturing more strategic items.
You can set the wake-up time and choose to be woken up either by a radio alarm function or by a typical beep/buzz alarm.
The ring of a double-bell alarm clock could have been the worst sound to wake up to, ever. Not really much of an advance over roosters.
Jawbone UP (November 2011)
The Jawbone UP wristband activity tracker launched by Jawbone featured one of the first silent alarms: it can wake up its wearer simply by vibrating, without any unpleasant beeps. Tracking wrist movements, the armband is also able to roughly sketch out your sleep patterns. Thanks to these 2 features, this is the first device that enabled its users to get woken up during a light sleep phase.
Marks the end of the “Annoying Wake-Up Sounds” era.
Even though this vibrating alarm system is silent, it looks like a hospital bracelet crafted by aliens… not like that’s a bad thing, you know. If you’re dating an alien, it’s awesome.
In 2018, Withings released a Swiss-made activity- and sleep-tracking watch with a silent alarm in 2014, and now all of our watches (Steel and Steel HR) feature this. Compare our activity trackers.
Withings Aura (August 2014)
Enrich your sleep experience with the Aura – a bedroom system that combines the body data gathered by the contact-free Sleep Sensor (placed under the mattress) with the environmental data recorded by the Bedside Device to provide the most advanced sleep tracking.
The system comes with a Smart Wakeup function to ensure that you emerge revivified from a light sleep cycle. Aura also spares you the stress of being scared awake by an alarm clock: it gradually invites you to open your eyes with a 30-minute-long scientifically validated Light & Sound wake-up program that follows the smoothest path out of sleep.
For the first time ever, you can make sure you wake up smoothly (sunrise program), feeling energized because Aura wakes you up at the best time of your sleep cycle.
You need electricity, so people who go camping, well, they have the sun… or bears.
Update 2018: Withings Sleep
In 2018, Withings created an advanced sleep sensor and home automation pad.
Sleep doesn’t wake you, but it is designed to improve your nights and your days with free in-app programs and a Sleep Score to help you know what you need more and less of.
Want to learn more about sleep in general? Check out the freshest article in our sleep section.
Knocking up in Dickens
Knocking up was so commonplace Dickens made passing reference to it in his novel Great Expectations.
The orphan Pip takes up the tale in chapter six:
"As I was sleepy before we were far away from the prison-ship, Joe took me on his back again and carried me home.
"He must have had a tiresome journey of it, for Mr Wopsle, being knocked up, was in such a very bad temper that if the Church had been thrown open, he would probably have excommunicated the whole expedition, beginning with Joe and myself."
Robert Paul, the man who discovered the body of the Ripper's first victim - Mary Nichols, described how the policeman he informed saw no reason to let it detain him from his knocking up duties, Mr Jones says.
"I saw [a policeman] in Church-row, just at the top of Buck's-row, who was going round calling people up," Mr Paul told the inquest. "And I told him what I had seen, and I asked him to come, but he did not say whether he should come or not. He continued calling the people up, which I thought was a great shame, after I had told him the woman was dead."
Knocker uppers were not only confined to industrial cities. Caroline Jane Cousins - affectionately known as Granny Cousins - was born in Dorset in 1841 and became Poole's last knocker upper, waking brewery workers each morning until retiring in 1918.
Another well known knocker upper was Mrs Bowers, of Greenfield Terrace in Sacriston, County Durham.
She was a familiar sight out on the streets with her dog Jack. She woke each day at 1am and left her warm bed to wake the miners on the early shift.
She began knocking up during World War One and continued for many years, according to Beamish, the Living Museum of the North.
The trade also ran in families. Mary Smith, who used a pea shooter, was a well-known knocker upper in east London and her daughter, also called Mary, followed in her mother's footsteps. The latter is widely believed to have been one of the capital's last knocker uppers, according to Mr Jones.
With the spread of electricity and affordable alarm clocks, however, knocking up had died out in most places by the 1940s and 1950s.
Yet it still continued in some pockets of industrial England until the early 1970s, immortalised in songs by the likes of folk singer-song writer Mike Canavan.
"Through cobbled streets, cold and damp, the knocker-upper man is creeping.
"Tap, tapping on each window pane, to keep the world from sleeping. "
Did Ben Franklin Invent Daylight Saving Time?
Daylight saving time—the practice of moving the clock forward one hour—has many critics. Losing an hour of sleep only to wake up to darkness? No thanks. But is Benjamin Franklin to blame for this “invention”?
Daylight saving time is one thing that Franklin did not invent. He merely suggested Parisians change their sleep schedules to save money on candles and lamp oil.
The common misconception comes from a satirical essay he wrote in the spring of 1784 that was published in the Journal de Paris. In the essay, titled “An Economical Project,” he writes of the thrifty benefits of daylight versus artificial light. He describes how—when woken by a loud noise at 6 a.m.—he noticed that the sun had already risen.
“Your readers, who with me have never seen any sign of sunshine before noon, and seldom regard the astronomical part of the almanac, will be as much astonished as I was, when they hear of his rising so early and especially when I assure them, that he gives light as soon as he rises. I am convinced of this. I am certain of my fact. One cannot be more certain of any fact. I saw it with my own eyes.”
His conclusions? Rising with the sun would save the citizens of Paris, where he was living at the time, a great deal of money: “An immense sum! That the city of Paris might save every year, by the economy of using sunshine instead of candles.”
Tongue firmly in cheek, Franklin went on to propose regulations to ensure Parisians became early risers:
First. Let a tax be laid of a louis [gold coin] per window, on every window that is provided with shutters to keep out the light of the sun.
Second … Let guards be placed in the shops of the wax and tallow chandlers, and no family be permitted to be supplied with more than one pound of candles per week.
Third. Let guards also be posted to stop all the coaches, etc. that would pass the streets after sunset, except those of physicians, surgeons, and midwives.
Fourth. Every morning, as soon as the sun rises, let all the bells in every church be set ringing and if that is not sufficient? Let cannon be fired in every street, to wake the sluggards effectually, and make them open their eyes to see their true interest.
“For the great benefit of this discovery, thus freely communicated and bestowed by me on the public, I demand neither place, pension, exclusive privilege, nor any other reward whatever,” he continued. “I expect only to have the honour of it.”
So who did first propose daylight saving time? We can place the blame on a New Zealand entomologist, George Hudson, who wanted more daylight in the evenings and presented the idea in 1895.
Setting the Stage for the American "Tin Can" Alarm clock
30-hour "Marine" movement signed by L. (Laporte) Hubbell and bearing Hubbell's patent date of October 10, 1865. This type of movement was developed into the movement used in the top bell tin can alarm clock.
Top view showing large balance and spring, and the "ratchet tooth" type of detached lever escapement that uses a verge with solid steel pallets. The "pin pallet" escapement became popular in the 1880's, but makers such as Seth Thomas and Waterbury continued using the ratchet tooth escapement into the 20th century. Movement courtesy of Burt Kassap, photos by Kenneth Clapp.
This represents the first evolutionary step in the development of the "tin can" alarm clock: the addition of an alarm to the marine lever timepiece movement. Here, the alarm is an "add-on" to the basic movement - notice the riveted "ear" at the bottom to hold the alarm mainwheel.
In this Ansonia movement, the alarm is now an integral part of the movement. (Remaining steps in the alarm clock movement evolution include making the movement closer to square for better fit in a smaller round case, switching to rear wind, and adding alarm trip wheel with stationary alarm hand and setting knob.
Seth Thomas Clock Company was granted a patent in 1876 for a small bedside alarm clock (small compared to an American wooden-cased shelf clock). This may have been the first clock of this type, or perhaps other makers were working on this idea at the same time. In the late 1870's, small alarm clocks became popular, and the major US clock companies started making them, followed by the German clock companies. The predecessor of Westclox was founded in 1885 with an improved method of small clock construction.
Westclox introduced the Chime Alarm in 1931. This clock was advertised with the slogan “First he whispers, then he shouts.”
The Westclox Moonbeam was introduced in 1949. This clock's alarm flashes a light on and off, then a buzzer sounds. Westclox now sells an excellent reproduction of the Moonbeam.
General Electric-Telechron first marketed a snooze alarm in 1956. The first Westclox Drowse (snooze) electric alarms were sold in 1959 and could be set for five (5) or ten (10) minutes snooze time.
Many interesting alarm clocks have been made over the years. There was the Tugaslugabed. This novel alarm clock would wake you by pulling your toe. When you went to bed, you would place a loop around your toe and the alarm clock would be bolted to the floor or footboard. Eight seconds before the set time, an alarm would ring and then at the set time this clock would pull hard on the loop to awake the soundest of sleepers.
The latest in high tech clocks is the internet alarm clock, which can also be used as a countdown timer or a stopwatch. The WorldClock shows many statistics such as population, births, deaths, deforestation, gallons of oil pumped, etc.
If you are interested in collecting alarm clocks, you might benefit from the Alarm Clock Chapter of the NAWCC.
'Mirrors of the heavens'
For many, the clocks were "objects of piety", offering insight into how time operates in relation to eternity.
They were seen as "mirrors of the heavens, because time is taken from the heavens [and] the movement of the sun and the moon," Dr Champion says.
But on the flip side, he says, "there were plenty of people who thought religion was a bit of nonsense".
For them, the musical alarm clock was more a technological or musical marvel.
"There's obviously a kind of sanctioned institutional idea of time being encompassed in sacred protection … and then there were some people thinking, 'well, that's a pretty tune'," Dr Champion says.
"There are other people who might encounter these objects as marvels or wonders as strange, extraordinary objects of novelty."
Getty images: Sakchai Vongsasiripat
The History of the Standardization of Time Zones
In 1878, Canadian Sir Sandford Fleming proposed the system of worldwide time zones that we use today. He recommended that the world be divided into twenty-four time zones, each spaced 15 degrees of longitude apart. Since the earth rotates once every 24 hours and there are 360 degrees of longitude, each hour the earth rotates one-twenty-fourth of a circle or 15 degrees of longitude. Sir Fleming's time zones were heralded as a brilliant solution to a chaotic problem worldwide.
United States railroad companies began utilizing Fleming's standard time zones on November 18, 1883. In 1884 an International Prime Meridian Conference was held in Washington D.C. to standardize time and select the prime meridian. The conference selected the longitude of Greenwich, England as zero degrees longitude and established the 24 time zones based on the prime meridian. Although the time zones had been established, not all countries switched immediately. Though most U.S. states began to adhere to the Pacific, Mountain, Central, and Eastern time zones by 1895, Congress didn't make the use of these time zones mandatory until the Standard Time Act of 1918.
WAKE ME UP: What time do Americans start their day?
Edison Research’s “Wake Me Up” study, commissioned by the Country Radio Seminar, provided us with many insights on Americans, including when they start their day. If you’re hoping to capture a morning audience, take a look at the graphic below:
Our study, which was conducted only on weekdays among those who wake up before 10am, asked, “When did you wake up this morning?”
The results show 8% of our national online survey are awake by 5am, when many television and radio morning shows sign on the air.
By 5:30am, one in five are awake.
The peak time for waking up is between 6 and 6:30am. Twenty-three percent of our sample rises in that half-hour, and this is the point when more than half of the nation’s potential audience is now awake.
Another 26% rise between 6:30 and 7:30 – and now most all respondents are awake.
And then there are the lucky ones: 17% of our sample have the luxury of sleeping past 8am.
How the study was conducted:
Edison conducted a national online survey of 1,550 respondents age 18-54 in January 2015.
Time and Navigation: How We Found Our Way in the World
The newest exhibit at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum explores the long history of path-making.
Type an address into your phone, and up will pop a step-by-step route from where you are to where you want to be. This is, in its way, magic -- magic that has, at this point, been rubbed and polished into a simple fact of life. The ease with which we machine-carrying humans make our way through the world, though, is quite new. And it's the product of a long, painstaking history: of people plotting a course, getting lost, and finally finding their way.
The newest exhibit at the Smithsonian's Air and Space museum, "Time and Navigation: The Untold Story of Getting from Here to There," opened this weekend, shares the story of human route-charting -- in the seas, in the sky, on the street, and in space. And i t's largely a story of failure. The first spaceships we sent to the moon either missed their destination completely or crashed into it. Amelia Earhart was very likely lost due to poor navigation. Columbus and his ships were, famously, misdirected.
But the story of navigation is also one of gradual knowledge and readjustment, of looking to the constant objects of the physical world -- the sun, the moon, the stars -- and using them to understand, ever more precisely, how to find our way in the world. " Dead reckoning " (positioning oneself using time, direction, and speed) has now given way to global positioning using satellites. And that, in turn, is giving way to atomic clocks that can keep time within three billionths of a second -- clocks that may soon make it to our phones. So it's easy to imagine that, given our tools, we have made getting lost obsolete. But that's to take the luxury of location-based living for granted. "Navigation was the great scientific challenge of our time," an animated 19th-century British "admiral" notes in a video tour of navigation's history. And it was the challenge on which many more challenges hinged. As explorers ventured off into distant, unknown lands, they needed above all to know where they were going -- to be, as they say, on the right path. Navigation was in many ways a leap of faith. It's just that the faith in question concerned calculations.
Now, though, thanks to the man-made stars we navigate by, "the whole world is synchronized." We humans are synchronized. The problems faced by those early explorers have been solved using that time-honored combination: ingenuity, and math.
"Time and Space" is one of the most ambitious exhibits Air and Space Museum has yet put on -- in part because it involved a collaboration among curators at different Smithsonian institutions (Air and Space as well as American History), but also because the exhibit is so theoretical in its topic and scope. It's not so much about a particular time or trend, but about, you know, space and time . and humans' place between the two. So one particular challenge the curators faced was to make the story of navigation -- a story, ultimately, about mathematical calculations -- accessible to the range of people who come through the museum every day. They tackled it well. The tale is arranged chronologically, but also in sections: navigation in the sea, navigation in the air, navigation in space, navigation in the contemporary world. We see models of clocks designed by Galileo. We see Charles Lindbergh's sextant. We see the updated sextant used by Apollo astronauts to navigate using the stars. We see a GPS-guided glide bomb. We see a duplicate of the Mariner 10 space probe, the first craft to reach Mercury. We see Stanley, the early self-navigating car.
Below, courtesy of the Smithsonian, are some of the artifacts featured in "Time and Navigation." For more, here's the online version of the exhibit.Bond Chronometer
Bygrave Position-Line Slide Rule
Apollo Sextant and Scanning Telescope
Dutch Pendulum Clock
Longines Sidereal Second-Setting Watch
Lockheed Vega 5C Winnie Mae
Stanley Autonomous Vehicle
A brief history of the 8-hour workday, which changed how Americans work
The eight-hour workday, or the 40-hour workweek, didn't become the modern labor standard by accident.
Back when the government first tracked workers' hours in 1890, full-time manufacturing employees worked a backbreaking 100 hours each week. Years of pressure from laborer organizers, along with changes from companies like Ford Motor, reformed working conditions in the U.S. and protected workers from schedules that endangered their health and safety.
Recent data indicates that the typical American worker is no longer adhering to an eight-hour workday. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works 44 hours per week, or 8.8 hours per day. A 2014 national Gallup poll put the average number at 47 hours per week, or 9.4 hours per day, with many saying they work 50 hours per week.
In demanding, competitive industries like tech and finance, professionals work in excess of 60 hours a week as a rule, and are available constantly by smartphone. A recent Bloomberg Businessweek story highlighted American factories where employees work upwards of 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week.
In a time when Americans are working more than ever before and taking less time off, it's helpful to see how the U.S. arrived at its "standard" workday.
Early 1800s: "For nearly 200 years workers, organized or not, sought to limit the workday," says Nelson Lichtenstein, history professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
"In the 19th century, even enslaved persons 'negotiated' with masters for time off," he adds.
1817: Welsh manufacturer and labor rights activist Robert Owen coins the phrase "Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest," dividing the day into three equal eight-hour parts.
The idea did not take hold in Europe, but it made its way to the U.S. over the next few decades. According to Lichtenstein, American workers adopted a similar slogan in the years following the Civil War.
1866: The now-defunct National Labor Union asks Congress to pass a law mandating the eight-hour workday. Their efforts ultimately fails, but helps put labor reform on the political map.