Wen Ma

Alarm Clock

(Please go to the "alarm clock gallery" section for more details)


  • Definition & Purpose:

Alarm clock is a clock that making noise at a specific time in order to notify events or timing. Usually, it is used to wake people up to start their days. A classical alarm clock is always organized by a clock and a bell on the top. In order to stop the noise, a certain place (often as a button) has to be pressed down. An electronic alarm clock especially on cellphones might have snooze that sets on a few minutes or stops in a certain time after a unattended ringing.
To be honestly, I have never liked any alarm clock in all my life. It does the function to get you up from bed but never wake you up for the day. That's exactly the reason I decide to work on it. It's necessary for most of the people especially students. I have two kinds of alarm clocks at home. A traditional looking alarm clock and an electronic number looking one. I found the traditional one is really useful and easy to operate while the electronic one is more confusing. In this case, I believe there must be some improvement that makes people like it more.

  • Target Audience: All the people who planned his/her day

  • History

TimeLine/ Place
Start from 14th century
Alarm clocks from the 1500's are in existence. See “The Clockwork Universe, German Clocks and Automata 1550 - 1650,” Maurice and Mayr, 1980, Smithsonian, Neale Watson Academic Publications, New York.
Household clocks were used and they have alarm mechanisms.
Reference: (P)a German iron wall clock with a bronze bell, probably made in Nuremberg in the 15th century. This clock is 19 inches tall and of open framework construction. It needed to hang high on the wall to make room for the driving weight to fall.
The United States
The first machenical alarm clock was invented by Levi Hutchins in United Stated in 1787. Hutchins made the clock only for himself that rings only at 4p.m.
In 1847, it was improved to be adjusted by French inventor Antoine Redier.
  • Concept about an alarm clock

"The alarm is simple in concept, typically having a cam that rotates every 12 hours. It has a notch into which a lever can fall, releasing a train of gears that drives a hammer, which repeatedly hits a bell until it runs down or is shut off (many alarms have no shutoff control). "
site from: http://clockhistory.com/alarmClockHistory/

About Products:

  • Electronic number display alarm clock
Display screen
(Main board)
Description: The big screen with numbers and letters on it.
It is digital transparent.
Display hours, minutes and seconds
Display weekdays.
Main adjusting button
Description: The big button at the bottom with a word"set" above it
Instruction: Push it once for alarm setting.
Push it twice for time setting.
Push it again for seconds and weekdays setting.
To set weekdays, time and seconds
Display button
Description: One button on the bottom left with a "up", one on the bottom right with a "shift".
Instruction: Push the left bottom button and hold on to it, it displays month and date.
Push the right bottom button and hold on to it, it displays alarm time that you set.
To display the setting that you made.
Display date or alarm time.
Alarm on/off
(button combination)
Instruction: To turn on or turn off the alarm, you have to push the two display buttons together.
Turn on or turn off the alarm
Fake buttons
Description: The top two button on the left and on the right. There's no function at all. They are there just for decorations.
Battery case
Description: The small case on the bottom of the alarm clock with an arrow pointing down.
Instruction: Follow the direction of that arrow, you can open the battery box. There's only one AA battery needed. You need to take the battery out and put it back in order to reset the clock. There's instruction inside that helps you to put the battery in the right way
Power supply of the alarm clock
Description: A very small speaker on the back of the clock. Above the battery case.
Make alarm noise

  • Traditional alarm clock
Display screen
(Main board)
Description: A tranditional clock face with 4 hands on it
The longest one for the minute.
The second longest one for the second.
The shorter one for the hour
The shortest one for the alarm
The minute hand and the hour hand are black.
The Alarm hand and second hand are silver.
There's a light on the right top corner of the clock but it's hidden.
Display time and alarm time.
Light up the darkness.
Description: A regular small speaker at the back. Very easy to find.
Make alarm noise
Snooze/Light button
Description: A big silver button on the top of the clock with words"SNOOZE/ LIGHT" on it.
Instruction: Push the button to stop noise.
Hold on to it, it will turn on the light on the main board.
Realize it, light off.
Stop alarm
Turn on the light.
Turn off the light.
Alarm on/off switch
Description: A black ellipse knob on the top of the back with "on/off" on the right.
Instruction: Locate the knob to "on" to turn on the alarm.
Locate the knob to "off" to turn the alarm off until it's set on "on" again.
Turn on/off the alarm
Alarm adjusting knob
Description: A black round knob on the left centre of the back. There's a sound wave icon on the top of it and an arrow to lead you which way to rolate it. Very easy to find.
Instruction: Rolate the knob to set alarm time. It controls the silver alarm hand on the main board.
Set alarm time.
Time adjusting knob
Description: A black round knob on the right centre of the back. There's a clock-like icon on the top of it and an arrow to lead you to the right direction. Very easy to find.
Instruction: Rolate the knob to set minute. The hour hand also goes with the minute hand according to the rule 60 min = 1 hour.
Set clock time.
Battery case
Descrption: The battery case is at the bottom of the back. There's one part of it sticking up where you can pick up and open it. Only one AA battery is needed for this clock and an instruction to tell you how to put it the right way.
Power supply for the alarm clock

Design Principles:

Electronic number display alarm clock

  • When any of the button is pushed, the characters on the screen change. For example, if the main adjusting button is pushed, the screen changes into the alarm setting. The "Hour" number keeps flashing.Then push the display button on the bottom right, the "minute" begins to flash. Then push the button at the bottom left, the flashing number grows according to how many times you push. After adjustment, push the main adjusting button again, the screen comes back to regular clock time.
  • When the button combination is being pushed, there's BB sound and a little bell appears on the screen to show that the alarm has been opened.
  • When the battery case is being opening, a cracky sound usually appears to suggest that the battery case is opened.
  • When the alarm is ringing, push any of the actual buttons will stop the alarm.
  • The left display button shows the date.
  • The right display button shows the alarm time.
  • Its greyness gives a feeling of high technology and modern
  • The silver cover suggests metalic and durable.
  • It is very smooth touching,.
  • The buttons on the sides look very stable and reliable.

  • The fake buttons and actual buttons are mixed together, which is very difficult to tell them apart.
  • There's no instruction or representative icon on the clock. Without a user guide, it is very difficult for new user to operate.
  • The transparent screen looks modern and high-tech from some point of view, but at the same time makes it very difficult for eyes to see the characters.
  • The greyness metalic cover gives a feeling of duration and strong, but actually it's made of plastic and it's very fragile.

  • There's no label to show instructions.
  • Time and dates are shown on the big screen. Buttons are on the side without being marked either.
  • The battery case is at the back at the bottom which is pretty easy to find.
  • There is an instruction in the battery case that shows the right direction to put in battery.

  • The buttons are prominent which lead the users to push it and suggests they have a function.
  • However, the fake buttons also give an impression of being pushed though they have no function.
  • The characters on the screen are divided into "time" and "weekdays", which suggests there's at least two functions of this clock: show time and show weekdays. And they are both adjustable.
  • The bottom is slightly slanted, that forces the user to put it in the right way so that it wouldn't fall off.

  • Most of the electronic clocks have the same kind of characters that being displayed.
  • Most of the electronic clock buttons are not clearly labeled or marked.
  • Electronic clocks creat a feeling of metalic, modern and fashion.

Traditional alarm clock

  • By pushing the "snooze/light" button, the light on the main board is turned on untill the user realize the button.
  • When the alarm rings, the user could push the "snooze/light" button to stop the alarm.
  • When the alarm switch is turned, a craky sound is made due to the changes.
  • The minute hand on the main board moves if the user rolate the time adjusting knob at the back.
  • The alarm hand on the main board moves if the user rolate the alarm adjusting knob at the back.
  • When the "snooze/light" button is pushed, it makes heavy clicking sound.

  • It looks simply designed and very useful.
  • The silver button on the top is very pleasant to the eye and very stand out.
  • At the back of the alarm clock, the knobs are made into black colour which made them very obvious on the white background.
  • The hands on the main board are black too, but not the alarm hand and second hand, that makes it easy to tell them apart.

  • It is very show if users only use the minute hand to adjust time.
  • The appearance is not very attractive though it is very easy to operate.
  • The battery is very difficult to take out because the battery case is too deep for finger to fit.
  • There are labels beside almost every button and knob on the clock.
  • The hands are different length and the numbers on the clockface are big and recognizable.
  • The knobs and buttons are organized properly. Very easy to find and very easy to use

  • The knobs are black on the white background, that forces the users to rolate it.
  • The "snooze/ light" button on the top is comparitive flat, but it's silver and shiny looking attracts users' attention.
  • Only the top and bottom of the clock is flat, that suggests the right way to put it on the table.

  • It has a traditional clockface, very easy to read.
  • It has specific knobs or buttons for a certain function. For example, the time adjusting knob is specifically made for the minute hand.
  • It is a simply looking clock with colours on the side and clock in the middle.

Experienced / User feedback:

  • Electronic alarm clock

Personal experiences
II have bought it for a year but I never really know how to use it properly. Now I use it just as a regular clock that tells time (and it always goes 15 minutes faster. I can't figure out the problem) I use my cellphone instead. Though it's always a trouble that I might forget to set it, I think it's still easy for me to operate. There are three words on the main board that makes no sense and never helps. This clock came with no users guide. I mixed up the actual buttons that useful and the fake buttons. I don't really remember the button combinations. This clock to me is always a headache. However it looks ok and modern kind of.
User's feedback
(From Iris) I don't use it very often because I don't know how to use it. There's no picture or any instructions on the clock, and there's no user guide. I don't remember the reason I bought it at all. Maybe just for temporary convenience. I asked others to set it for me but they didn't figure it out either. I don't like it though it's easier for me to read the time. The screen is transparent, I can hardly see in the night.

  • Traditional alarm clock

Personal experience
It's simply to use and easy to see. Without an instruction paper, I could easily figure out myself. It has a light beside the display screen which is perfect for the night. The knobs are clearly seperated from each other. They are black on white and clearly marked by appropriate pictures or words. It's not that attractive looking but very useful.
User's feedback
(From Iris) I'm using it all the time. It's easy to use and easy to operate. Especially at night, I could see it with the light. It's good for me.

Advantages and disadvantages:

  • Electronic number display alarm clock:
Very easy to read the time.
Looks better compare to some traditional clock
Low battery
Higher technology
Hard to figure out how to operate for new users
Transparent screen makes it harder to see in the dark background
Fake buttons and actual buttons look the same, it is very hard to tell them apart.
Button combinations makes it even harder to use

  • Traditional alarm clock
It is ok the read the time.
Very easy to operate.
The knobs are black on the white background and clearly marked by the pictures.
The buttons are all labled.
A small light for the darkness of night, makes it really easy to see in the dark.
A bigger speaker.
The hands are colour separated which makes it easier to tell apart.
Time reading might be difficult for kids.
Rolating knobs are easy to be broke.
The clock only has minute adjusting knob, which makes it slower to set time.

Usability Goals:

  • Efficiency:

Compare to the traditional clock, the electronic clock has more advantages on reading the time. It transfer the time into numbers which makes it easier for both adults and children to read. However, the electronic clock takes more time to learn to operate because there's no instruction anywhere. Therefore, the tranditional clock appears to be more effective. The knobs and buttons all have representative icon with them. That saves a lot of time for the users to figure out how to use it. If the user is in the supermarket selecting an alarm clock, she/he might be put the electronic clock down because it's not obviously shows how to operate it. Though the electronic one is nicer and easy to read, the traditional clock still has more efficiency.
  • Learnability:

The traditional alarm clock is very easy to learn because of those icons beside the button and knobs. The electronic one is not that easy to use due to its lack of using clues.
  • Effectiveness:

They are both very effective if the user knows how to use it. Although they were made different, both these alarm clocks are using the same technology theory.
  • Memorability:

It's very easy to remember the usage of the traditional alarm clock. Its knobs and buttons have different shapes and different colours. Every single button has its own function and feedback.
It's difficult to remember the usage of the electronic alarm clock. It's buttons are all the same colour, they look the same. Though it scales different, it still has combinations to remember which makes it even more difficult.
  • Utility:
The sound is very effective for wake up.
The traditional clock is very easy to operate, suitable for both adult and children.
They both use for wake people up.
They have both regular clock time and alarm function.
  • Safety:

It's safe for people. They are using batteries instead of electricity, nobody would be electried. They are made of plastic, not glass. No one will get hurt by using them.

Alarm clocks gallery:

This is a designed alarm clocks gallery for the slideshow at the top of the page.

Research references and bibliography:
1. http://clockhistory.com/alarmClockHistory/
2. **www.wpclipart.com/ time/alarm/**
3. **blogs.smarter.com/ homegarden/category/bedroom/**
4. www.2dayblog.com/
5. **showid.blogbus.com/ logs/10537034.html**