1. The most useless timekeeping device of all time

    Posted February 18, 2013 in ideas  |  4 Comments so far

    I love this idea for a clock that displays the time as QR codes, proudly described by its inventor as “deliciously impractical” and which I’d nominate as the most useless clock ever invented.

    It reminds me of an old idea of mine for a similarly pointless timekeeping tool – the Texting Clock.

    The Texting Clock would have been a successor device to the Speaking Clock. But instead of calling a number to hear a robot tell you the time, you would text a number and have a robot text you back. Something like this:

    • I send a text to 84298 or some other number saying “what’s the time?”
    • This service sends you a text back saying “INCORRECT SYNTAX” or something bothersome
    • After a terse exchange with the Texting Clock you eventually get the syntax of your request right
    • You then get a text back saying “THE TIME IS 12:05:33 GMT”

    Of course, the user would in most cases be texting the Texting Clock from a device that already had a clock on it, making it not only infuriating but utterly redundant.

    The Texting Clock is something I’ve had in my mind for years: an idea whose very uselessness seems to contain a lesson, like a Zen koan contained within a daft product concept. During my meditations I’d often wonder if anyone ever seriously proposed the Texting Clock. Maybe there was a meeting in the mid or late 1990s where some BT engineers, looking for ways to jump on the SMS bandwagon, came up with this concept. Or perhaps the team of the Speaking Clock, desperate to stay relevant in a “text-speak” era, thought their basic product would work just as well without the voice. I imagine the pitches: “it would work even in a really loud place where the Speaking Clock wouldn’t be heard”; “sure people have the time on their phones, but they’d know without a doubt that this was the real time.

    Seeing this project though, I feel like I don’t have to wonder any more – it exists! OK, SMS has been replaced with a 21st-century equivalent, but the principles of the Texting Clock are all there: the painfulness, the redundancy, the amount of time added to a task that should take very little time at all. It’s making me wonder if I should just go ahead and make the Texting Clock happen myself.