"In this digital age we barely give a second thought to alarm clocks - almost everything we buy seems to beep or buzz at us at some time or other. Some have taken to vibrating or even talking! However in the age of mechanical horology an alarm mechanism was far less common.
"The history of the alarm clock is a tribute to human ingenuity. People have developed alll[!] sorts of wonderful ideas for causing a signal to occur a a particular time. One of the earliest examples was in ancient Greece....
"...A simple candle clock could also be turned into an alarm clock by inserting a nail or other item into the wax at a particular point. When the candle burnt down that far, the nail fell onto a metal pan below with a clunk."
The Lemming found that 'history of the alarm clock' on Trevor Mendham's Horology Stuff website. Mr. Mendham's online creation grew pretty much the same way the Lemming's have:
"Horology is the science of time measurement, especially the manufacture of clocks, watches and chronometers of all sorts. That's the stuff you'll find on this site, along with wider discussions about theories of time in both science and fiction.
"I've loved clocks and watches since I was a kid and I'm also fascinated by the nature of time itself. Since I also love learning and writing ...."
(Home page, Horology Stuff)
Heavy sleepers, like the Lemming, may have inspired the development of something more effective than a nail going 'clunk' as a day-starter.
Interestingly, the Lemming has not found any reference to the obvious expedient of having the heavy sleeper arrange for a light sleeper - preferably one with anger-management issues - rest near the nail-in-candle alarm clock.
Of course, Mr. Mendham seems more interested in clock tech that's actually been used: not the hypothetical ramblings of a fervid Lemming.
Horology Stuff is a pretty good resource for clock-related information: with a nice, conversational writing style. In the Lemming's opinion. Your experience may vary. There's even a short section about famous clocks, and The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers (Tempus Rerum Imperator, and all that).
The website is, the Lemming hopes, a work-in-progress. Mr. Mendham seems to have been working on it since 2005. Since it's the work of one person, it takes time to 'grow' a website like Horology Stuff. Also since it's the work of one person, the Lemming thinks you'll hear the author's voice, sort of, in the text.
- "Gaylord: A Car, Another Car, a Company, a Town, and a Block of Wax"
(November 18, 2011)
- "And Now, for Something Completely Different: a Spiral Candle Video"
(March 16, 2011)
- "Christmas Tree Lights: From Candles to Electric"
(December 23, 2010)
- "Christmas Trees, Queen Victoria, And Coleridge"
(December 21, 2009)
- "Paper Chandelier - Probably Not for Use With Candles"
(April 26, 2008)