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December 19, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Timex 'Easy Set' alarm clock

Timex_1Pete Bender points out:

There are a number of things broken with the Timex 'Easy Set' Alarm clock manual:

1. The 'Bottom of cabinet' text is placed between a drawing of the top and the front, nowhere near the bottom.

2. The buttons for the easy-set feature are physically marked 1 (alarm set), two buttons labeled 2 (<< & >>), and 3 (enter).  However, in the diagram and in the directions, they are referred to as 11, 3, 9, and 10, respectively.

Perhaps the best part of the whole thing is the fact that the clock itself was not functioning!  It's been returned, and the hunt for a well-designed alarm clock continues.


that's what happens in the rush for a $5 alarm clock at the wal mart (or wherever) why must we buy these things on a semi annual basis?

oh yeah, first

Posted by: Ron at December 19, 2005 12:25 AM

... First!! Damn, too slow i guess. But ya, dont buy cheap stuff made in china from walmart.

oh yeah, second

Posted by: PeRsOn at December 19, 2005 02:52 AM

Once, when I was bored at work, I jotted down a design for the world perfect alarm clock. It had features like a large AM/PM logo, instead of that stupid "dot" (no more being late for work because you set your clock for 6:15PM). Also, the alarm on/off buttons glowed when the alarm is on, so you could easily tell if & which alarm was on at a glance.

If only I had the resources to get it manufactured!

Posted by: Chris B at December 19, 2005 06:34 AM

my url points to thinkgeek's neverlate alarmclock. it has alarms for each of the seven days, so it wont get you up on weekends, or "forget" to go off monday morning. check it out.

Posted by: schwal at December 19, 2005 08:00 AM

Two posts in a row I get to plug myself and still be on topic!

Anyway- this looks like a revamped version of my alarm clock that I have- it's ok but I'm still looking for the best.

Posted by: Eddie at December 19, 2005 08:57 AM

I actually have an alarm clock with a numeric keypad. I've never had an easier to set alarm. It's very limited in other ways though, like no dual alarms, just a buzzer, etc.

Posted by: Jesse at December 19, 2005 09:06 AM

schwal- that is awesome. I think I've just found a reason to supplant the crappy one I have.

Posted by: Eddie at December 19, 2005 09:29 AM

And by crappy- I mean used to "the best alarm I've ever used" but now is crappy since I've seen the Neverlate

Posted by: Eddie at December 19, 2005 09:30 AM

I, personally, have a well-designed alarm clock. It is a CONAIR Sound Therapy alarm clock with 10 sounds and an AM/FM radio. The thing is easy to set, having only 4 setting buttons (In order: Hold to change time; Backward; Forward; Fast Foreward (Make 1 hour pass in 1 second; very convinient)), and being able to set both the time and alarm with those 4 buttons. The only pain is that it does not have a backwards Fast Foreward button.

Posted by: alex42bionicle at December 19, 2005 09:39 AM

Alarm clocks are one of those perfect targets for usability. So many ways they could be good, so many ways they fail.

But personally, I suspect there *are* good alarm clocks out there, it's just that they're not cheap. The cheap ones are ubiquitous. Cheap means fewer buttons, which means bizarre button-combos for functions, which makes them unusable.

What I want is a clock that strikes a balance between usable and economical.

Posted by: DaveC426913 at December 19, 2005 09:43 AM

Well, the neverlate that was linked by schwal up there is certainly talking the talk.. but of course, the whole point of usability is not just what it CAN do but how easy it is to actually use. The rotary knobs seem like the best approach (unless you have a number pad).

I linked to mine because I never really have to set it- It has a Mon-Friday alarm so it never goes off on the weekend. But this neverlate takes it soo much further.

And to Dave's comment- it's only 30 dollars! I think that's a nice price point. It's a little high, but considering what it does. I view it as: "a cheap dinner for two for one night? Or hardly ever having to think about my alarm clock for the rest of my life?"

The one I linked to earlier was about that price I believe.

Posted by: Eddie at December 19, 2005 09:53 AM

oh- and there's this: reviewof it if anyone is as interested as I am

Posted by: Eddie at December 19, 2005 09:55 AM

This alarm clock is standard in Hilton hotels. Hilton had a huge campaign last year promoting their wonderful new alarm clocks. Funny to see them featured at TIB. :)

I've found these clocks hard to use and annoying. The only good feature, hotel-wise, is that you don't have to worry about finding your radio tuned to some mariachi station every day after the maid's been in the room.

Posted by: danalan at December 19, 2005 10:19 AM

I've had good luck with this RCA:

- graduwake, so it's not a jarring alarm

- spin wheel for setting time (like an iPod)

- two alarms

- nap timer

- configurable snooze time

- big blue numbers (my girlfriend's blind w/o her glasses) and blue seems nicer and softer than the standard red (kinda like my VW dashboard)

- supposedly has auto-time set (but doesn't seem to work in Canada)

About the only thing is that the dimmer doesn't dim as much as I'd like, and there's no weekend setting.

Not a bad compromise, I think...

Posted by: stongey at December 19, 2005 11:29 AM

danalan: I encountered one of these monstrosities in a Hilton hotel recently and, like you, found it difficult to use. Bogus hotel clocks with difficult to set alarms are the main reason why I always travel with my portable radio. It's confusing and difficult to set, too, but at least I know how to do it and don't have to spend a half hour fumbling around and experimenting with the doggone thing.

Oh, well, at least it's not Clocky.

Posted by: Steve at December 19, 2005 11:43 AM

Uh, if you're in a hotel anyway, why not just call the operator for a wake-up call? I can safely say I've never used a hotel alarm clock... but I get wake-up calls all the time.

Posted by: James Schend at December 19, 2005 01:32 PM

I stayed in a hotel that had a Timex alarm clock -- the time was set wrong and took me 15 minutes to figure out how to get the time right! Turns out that the buttons you had to use were scattered all over and didn't follow the 'standard' in most clock radios where you hold down 'time set' and then press H or M. Maybe that 'standard' isn't as easy as other possible approaches but at least most people are used to it. Changing it to something different but not any easier is a step back.

Posted by: Alex B at December 19, 2005 04:15 PM

What strikes me as truly bizarre on this clock are the iconographic buttons. I guess they're radio presets. The guitar player and singer kinda make sense, but the next one just looks like some dude in a panic, and I have no idea what the last one is unless it's someone riding a skateboard.

Posted by: rockers at December 19, 2005 05:56 PM

Searching for a *usable* alarm clock? Can you keep your eyes out for Shangri-la, a unicorn and the Holy Grail while you're at it? :)

Posted by: Reed at December 19, 2005 06:07 PM

I currently have this alarm clock

(looks like it isn't available anymore :( )

It's got:

gradual alarm

weekend mode

dual alarm

nap timer

programmable snooze

included battery for backup

switch for daylight saving time

time already set from factory(seriously, I have never set the time on this, and in the 3 years I've had it, its still accurate)

Says AM or PM instead of a dot

Posted by: Metasheep at December 19, 2005 06:23 PM

I have this alarm clock, and some of the features are cool, but the one thing I can't figure out is how to turn off the alarm. There's no instructions for that. When I go on vacation, I have to unplug it and take out the batteries so the cats won't go berserk!

Posted by: hulagirl at December 19, 2005 07:44 PM

This is the alarm clock that I have, except mine has a green LED display. I have no problems deciphering (with my eyes closed) between the long rectangular snooze button, and the large round sleep button. I believe I bought mine at Walmart about 3 years ago. I'm most pleased about the radio alarm feature, because the buzzer gives me a headache...definitely not needed upon waking.

Posted by: synthetic at December 19, 2005 08:06 PM

What is stupid about the clock is that to create the "easy set" they set the clock at the factory and put in the backup battery. You have to set the time zone to adjust the hours. It does not set itself from any time signal. It also sets DST automatically based on the date. What happens soon when DLT is extended?

Posted by: Dennis at December 19, 2005 08:25 PM

Re: using hotel alarm clocks vs. wake-up calls.

I find that if I want to get up at a particular time, it helps to use both the hotel alarm clock and the wake-up call.

That way, when you fail to get a wake-up call, you don't lose your client. Wake-up calls are not infallible, neither are the alarm clocks. The chances of both failing are rare. That's why I use both.

Since I travel so much (100+ nights) I eventually see the worst of every chain.

Posted by: danalan at December 20, 2005 07:31 PM

I live with Mom so I don't need an alarm clock. She's hard to use and annoying but she works when the power goes out and there's not alot of buttons. There's no gradual alarm, there's just an annoying "C'monTim, C'monTim, C'monTim" (rhymes with quantum)

Posted by: Timm at December 21, 2005 04:18 AM

I live with Mom so I don't need an alarm clock. She's hard to use and annoying but she works when the power goes out and there's not alot of buttons. There's no gradual alarm, there's just an annoying "C'monTim, C'monTim, C'monTim" (rhymes with quantum)

Posted by: Timm at December 21, 2005 04:20 AM

What I love about alarm clocks, from a usability point of view, is that they require a certain feature (the ability to shut off the alarm) to be intentionally difficult, in order to function satisfactorily. If it's too easy, you can literally do it in your sleep, and thus the design fails.

Posted by: Jeff Chausse at December 22, 2005 01:47 PM

While we are on the subject of alarm clocks. I got one with nature sounds, and they sound ok. Except I am a picky listener, and when the sounds reach the loop point, there is a discernable glitch.

I suppose this is just a warning to anyone who thinks that waking to nature sounds, sounds nice.

And a challenge to anyone who plays with sound editing software, to remove the glitch from a looping sound sample. Is it possible?


Posted by: Jojo at December 23, 2005 11:27 PM

What's really broken is the false advertising. "Easy-Set."

Posted by: Jake Nelson at December 27, 2005 05:06 PM

I made the mistake of buying one of these. As soon as I took it out of the box, I noticed these problems:

-"Easy Set" doesn't mean a radio time receiver as it usually does. In this case, it means that they set the clock at the factory.

-Setting time, should the power fail and backups die, involves taking off a panel to push a hidden button.

-The CD player doesn't have a repeat function, which I use a lot.

-Toggling between radio/CD, buzzer, and no alarm is counterintuitive. Rather than pushing the button marked "Alarm Set", you push the button on the other side of the display marked "Alarm Reset". "Alarm Reset", to me, sounds like it resets the sime of your alarm to some default time, rather than switching it on.

-The radio preset buttons, rather than using 1, 2, 3, and 4 like every other radio I've seen, use paper iconic inserts that you're supposed to change to reflect the kind of station (top 20, rock, classical, etc). But, as mentioned upthread, it's nearly impossible to tell WTF the buttons mean.

-The cord for the MP3 line in is about 2 inches long, so running the cord to my CD boombox witha repeat function is out of the question.

All in all, not a very good experience for me. It's back to the store with this POS clock.

Posted by: Invalid Attribute Index Justin at December 28, 2005 11:29 AM

There is no such thing as a usable alarm clock. Perhaps there is for people who are used to complicated technology, but for others there is nothing. My mother and I literally searched for 6 weeks looking for an alarm clock that my grandfather could use. No luck. Eventually we went to a novelty-type store that had the old alarm clocks (non-digital) with the two bells at the top. But it wasn't quite what we thought, it still had to be set with buttons on the back!

Fortunatly, they can't be any worse than digital watches. Those have gotten so bad that my watch actually has a menu. (Which is better than "press button A twice, wait 3 seconds, press button B within 2 seconds, hold button C..")

Posted by: Iya at May 12, 2006 10:35 AM

I recently stayed at a hotel, and although i was able to understand the cock after a while, it was very inconvienent. Also the volume isnt great for playing a mp3 player, but thats nothing broken.

Posted by: Bowman at May 31, 2006 08:02 PM

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