Clocks, backward in time

Today's the day when Americans, Canadians, and others across the pond turn their clocks back (we in the UK beat you to it by a week). In honor of that momentous occasion, the Vintage Ads LJ group has a fine collection of clock ads from the past. Here are two of the best, found by nolock_boston: Telechron, GE Computer Radio (which I covet with the intensity of a thousand suns).


  1. I love that the big, unhelpful “E” for “when you’ve made an error” is touted as a feature.
    Whoever designed a clock interface where it’s _possible_ for the user to “make an error” should have been asked to rethink their calling in life.

    1.  Oh, please. That’s like saying phones are no good, because they let you dial wrong numbers. I ACTUALLY OWNED this clock radio, and it was the best radio I’ve ever owned. The keypad let you directly enter the time, instead of the usual clunky up/down control. You also used the keypad to enter the alarms (it had 2, and the could each wake up to different radio stations), Just a few key presses, and it’s done. Likewise, you just entered in an AM or FM frequency for a radio station. You could store up to a dozen frequencies that could be recalled with a keypad press. You could scan up and down the frequencies, as well.

      It also had a light sensor, and automatically adjusted the LED display’s brightness, which was highly innovative for the time.  Plus, you could set the snooze period to whatever you wanted.

      It was quite simply a beautiful piece of technology.

    2. Stroke of design genius:  keep the button, but ditch the “E” and replace it with “Panic”.

  2. I had one of those GE clock-radios, and I used it well past 2000 before it finally flaked the big one. It was rude, obnoxious, and perfect.  I seem to remember it cost close to 200 bucks, but for geekery of that magnitude, price was no object. I regret nothing.

    1. My parents had one until well into the 90’s. I believe it had been a wedding present. Its shrill call woke the entire house up for most of my childhood.

      1. I would love to read a compendium of interviews with the engineers who designed the alarm sounds used in electronic clocks over the years.

    2.  I usually used the radio alarm, but I remember what you’re talking about. I recall it used a 9-volt battery as a power-loss backup, But electronics not being as efficient as today, it could only run on the battery for a few hours. If the battery ran down while the power was off, once the power came back on, the alarm would automatically sound to let you know the alarm had lost its setting. It could wake the dead.

    3. I had one, too – it got me through college. Dead easy to set, and who didn’t love real plastic woodgrain? Mine finally had an unrecoverable error about 10 years ago.

  3. I pulled out a Sears Christmas catalog from 1966, one of the first years clock radios were available. (There were none in the ’64 catalog, and I don’t have a ’65 in my collection.) New technology was always quite expensive! The cheapest AM/FM clock radio offered was $32 (up to almost $60 for a deluxe fake wood grain one), which by my totally ignorant guess is roughly $856 in today’s money. My dad made a hundred bucks a week back then, so it was quite a luxury item.

    1. The ad for all the Telechron clock radios is from the mid-1950s. I have clock radios in my collection going back to the late forties.

      You are a bit off in the prices as well… the 1966 price would be about 7x today, except for the phenomenon of semiconductors.

    2. Is that your Sears Wish List catalog site,
      That’s a cool site, just like the old RadioShack catalog site.

       (’65 is missing there too, that’s why I thought it might be yours.)

      1.  No, I just have a collection of the original Christmas catalogs from my childhood and before- 1952 through 1968, I’m missing 5, including 1965. They were a BIG part of our childhood- us kids would fight to get to the Wishbook first when it arrived.

  4. I spent years looking for a clock radio where I could adjust the snooze time.  I mean years.  7 minutes, the default of most clock radios, just isn’t long enough.  I always set my alarm an hour earlier than I have to get up and if I didn’t sleep well I’ll sleep the extra hour and skip my usual morning routine.  I end up simply re-setting my alarm an hour ahead instead.

    1. You chould use two clock radios and set their alarm times an hour apart.  Silence the alarm on the first one and then drift back to sleep if you’re still tired.

      Bonus: if you got up with the first alarm, the second alarm means “Time to go to work!”

    2. Several of the most popular android alarm apps let you set a snooze timer (and the first one I looked at even has an option to decrease snooze time for each use). It’s not a stand-alone clock, but it could be an option. :)

      1.  All the clocks I ever had had a buzzer as the second alarm.  Waking up with a buzzer is a horrible experience for me.

    3. I never understood snooze timers. Just set the clock for when you want to get up. I wouldn’t tolerate somebody pulling my ear or tapping my shoulder to wake up before it’s time to wake up–why would I want an alarm doing it?

      1. Your alarm pulls your ear or taps your shoulder? Yeah, I wouldn’t want a snooze alarm with that kind of wake up system, either!

        My snooze is a “7 more minutes, mom!!!” button.

      2. Personally, because I like having a little time to myself before I go to work.  I also have very bad sleep apnea, I never know how well I’m going to sleep.  If I slept well, I’ll get up and take some time to myself before going to work, if not, the extra hour sleep helps.

  5. I have one important (to me) question: and a follow-up:
    1. Could you use the keypad to enter the alarm time by keying the numbers?
    2. Why then, do we have to now scroll through all the numbers to get to our wakeup hour and minute?

    don’t ask me to use my cell phone as an alarm to provide the ability to key in the numbers, either. My particular one is on the charger at night and in the other room because after it is charged it beeps every hour or maybe half-hour and wakes my wife up !

    1. hear-!#$’n-hear!  ten-key pads aren’t that expensive; and even a crap quality one would make life so much easier than: “&#$! i missed it *again* have to go through another 24 hours minute by !$~#’n minute!”

      next-up:  why all toasters suck for at least the last 20 years.

      (and yes: hey you kids get off my …zzzz)

    2. 1. Yes, you directly entered the time (as well as the snooze period, and radio station frequencies). There were also AM and PM buttons, and AM and FM buttons on the keypad.
      2. I have no idea.

    3. 1. Yes.

      2. Buttons are expensive. They can shave a tenth of a percent off their manufacturing cost and all that money is profit right in their pocket, baby. It sounds stupid but it’s how consumer electronics manufacturers think.

      1. … but low price often fails to reward the market. Bought a noname brand clock radio recently because it was slightly cheaper than a well known brand… and it showed station drift, unusable! I was shocked because in my whole life I have not encountered such a thing. I opened it up and it looked like it was thrown together by blind, handless children in an asian orphanage, and it probably was. Edit: actually it wasn’t noname, but a Tamashi KXZ 6. Worst. Radio. Clock. Ever.

  6. Now close your eyes and imagine “You Light Up My Life” on AM radio, blasting through the mono speaker.

      1. Music on AM and faux woodgrain

        Inextricable, aren’t they? “Adult contemporary radio”.  The alarm radio switches on during the news break/traffic report, the DJ takes the mic and says something you don’t pay attention to, then something like this comes on…

  7. I’ve been using the same Realistic Chronomatic clock-radio for the last twenty plus years now. Still works, though the light has dimmed on the electronic numbers.

  8. My Realistic dual-alarm, wake-to-cassette, AM/FM/FM stereo with battery backup is still kickin’ after almost 25 years.  The blue segmented display still dims when I turn off the room lights, although a couple of the segments are dimmer than the rest.  I think I paid $80 for it new.  I remember when I bought it, the clerk tried to sell me an extended warranty–quite a new thing back then, and not cheap.  I was annoyed, so I replied that if I wasn’t happy with it for some reason, I’d rather just buy a different brand next time.  I still feel that way about extended warranties, but it’s ironic that *that* clock radio is just about the only thing I have that has lasted so long.

  9. I had one of the GE computer radios. I had to reboot (power down reset) it a couple of times over the years before it finally became totally unreliable. After the first episode, I never really trusted it again.

  10. I grew up in the same town as the Telechron factory.  Telechron clocks are highly collectible.  As an adult, I’ve owned the Windsor (the gothic one), the Angelus (bakelite) and the Embassy (the round wooden one).

    We also had a dozen or so plastic or bakelite, squarish, roundish, ovalish, hexagonal or amoeboid clocks in pink, plaid or other dubious decorative options when I was a child.  Not to mention a wall clock over the fireplace that looked like the diamond-shaped one pictured, only with three overlapping diamonds.

    The original marketing spiel for the Embassy:

    An Electric Alarm with a Colonial Accent
    So gay, in its quaint New England way… so very different from the usual electric alarm… Embassy’s as refreshing as a Cape Cod breeze, as rich as “Down East” tradition. It has a mellow maple finish, an intriguing bowl shape… and brings you the electric time you can depend on to be right to the minute for years. It’s a silent alarm clock that lets you sleep… there’s never a tick to test your slumber. And its on-the-dot alarm keeps on ringing until you wake up and stop it. Of course, Embassy never needs winding, oiling or regulating, and has the self-starting motor that has long been making a name for Telechron as the world’s top favorite in electric alarms. See Embassy and other smart models at your Telechron dealer.

  11. Sigh – I miss clock radios, and prefer that approach to waking up gradually, but I haven’t had one since college.  (My wife hates the things, even when she is getting up before I am.)

    On the other hand, there are all sorts of new alarm systems that track your sleep cycle and wake you up when you’re at a state that you’re close enough to awake that it’s less disruptive.  Smartphone apps using accelerometers are one approach, and then there’s the Zeo sleep monitor that tracks brain waves using a headband, which can give you a lot more information about your sleep patterns.

  12. I had this clock radio when I was a kid. The buttons got where they wouldn’t function properly. I listened to many a Dr. Demento on it though. Now I’m mad I threw it away.

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