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Hummel Column: Don't be alarmed -- put the rooster in the pot

In the beginning, the first alarm clocks were roosters sitting on fences and crowing at the crack of dawn. If you wanted to get up earlier or later than the crack of dawn, tough luck for you. But Tagi al-Din wasn't satisfied with the rooster routine. He lived in Turkey, the land of cranky roosters, and in 1559 he invented the first non-rooster alarm clock. Later, in 1787, Levi Hutchins of New Hampshire, who had to get up early to go to work, developed a clock only for himself that rang at 4 a.m. and at no other hour. For most of us that would be worse than a rooster with insomnia. Finally, Antoine Redier, a French inventor, was the first to patent an adjustable alarm clock in 1847.

Alarm clocks weren't produced in this country during World War II because all our manufacturing resources were focused on weapons, vehicles, planes and munitions. But late in the war, as old alarm clocks were wearing out or breaking down, tired workers were oversleeping and missing their shifts, so production of alarm clocks had to be resumed out of necessity even before the war ended.

Some people claim to have mental alarm clocks. They decide what time they want to wake up in the morning and that's when the little bell in their head rings. They wake up wide awake. I'm somewhat skeptical of that. I would bet they occasionally oversleep or that they keep waking up early then lying there waiting for the intended wake up hour.

I usually wake up about the same time each morning, so alarm clocks are not a daily necessity for me. But from time to time a 5 a.m. wake up is necessary, so I have this cute little black digital alarm clock that is suppose to be readable in the dark but it isn't. You click it to "alarm set" then click the hour button then the minute button until it registers your a.m. or p.m. wake up time. Then you click it to "alarm on" and you're ready for a good night's sleep with the promise of gentle warning beeps, then the no-nonsense wake up racket at the time you've designated. Then when you're awake enough to reach the alarm, you click to "alarm off" and it stops ringing. What could be simpler? And this little clock is powered by one AA battery that lasts forever. The clock is about the size of a little box of toothpicks so you can thrown it in your bag and take it anywhere for reliable service. And it is reliable -- has never failed to ring at the appointed hour.

What could possibly go wrong? Lately it has gone on automatic pilot. Let's say it was set to ring at 5 a.m. on Monday, which it does, then is turned to "alarm off" for Tuesday. It has started ringing at 5 a.m. Tuesday and every morning, even when it's at "alarm off." It may be easy for you to go back to sleep after an alarm wakes you at 5 a.m., but it's not easy for me.

After one more false alarm last week, I decided that was the last one. I decided if that little black box were a rooster, he'd be headed for the pot. That wouldn't be easy, because a rooster is a living creature with a determination to benefit mankind, but can also feel pain. But a clock, this electronic nag, pesky as it is, is not a living creature. And even if it can feel pain, so be it. So the little clock was disarmed, decommissioned, defused, discontinued and destroyed. I took out the still powerful AA battery and sent the remains of the clock that rang too many times to the land of junk appliances, population in the millions.

We're in the age where little clocks and electronic devices that fail in their mission are not repaired (who would repair them -- the Chinese who made them?), they're thrown away. Sadly it doesn't even qualify to be recycled. Time marches on.