When I was in Oxford for my year abroad, I had a persistent problem with oversleeping. I’ve never been a morning person, and in Oxford this problem was compounded by two factors. First, I had to write a paper for each of my two tutorials every week, so I had invariably been up late writing the night before. Second, tutorials in the British university system are one-on-one meetings between student and professor, so if you oversleep, the class doesn’t go on without you; there’s just a professor sitting in their office, looking at the clock. Faced with this humiliating consequence, and in fact experiencing it quite a few times, I tried everything—short of, you know, planning my week so I could write the paper and still get a good night’s sleep. Drinking coffee just before getting into bed, booby-trapping my alarm clock with a tower of empty aluminum cans…it all ended the same way, with furious pedalling mixed with panicked swearing.
One night, finally lying down at 4 a.m. or so, I was kept awake, or half-awake, by the certain knowledge that in five hours my alarm clock was going to go off and that I wasn’t even going to dream about it. “If only there was some way to keep my alarm clock from turning off until I was out of bed,” I thought. “Maybe if my bed contained a scale, one that was hooked up to my alarm clock. Then, the alarm clock wouldn’t be silenced until it detected that my body weight had left the bed!” I drifted into sleep, not realizing until much later that I had just proposed, if only to myself, a $15,000 device to help me get up in the morning. I was probably late for my tutorial the next morning.
I tell that story to get a laugh, but part of me has always thought it was a neat idea, one that served a real need in an over-the-top way. And tonight I’m feeling vindicated, because while science hasn’t yet gotten around to the AlarmScale (suggestions of better names welcome), it has finally realized that an alarm clock should make you get out of bed:
If a screeching buzzer is not enough to get you moving in the morning, consider Clocky.
This alarm clock doesn’t just make noise, it breaks the snooze-button habit: after the first snooze period, Clocky rolls off the nightstand and runs away.
Clocky generated Internet buzz in 2005 when it was just a conceptual design project by Gauri Nanda, then a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is now an actual product, available for $50 at www.nandahome.com.
The clock can survive a two-foot drop and the alarm beeps randomly, ensuring that its frantic squalling won’t be easily forgotten. It comes in white, light blue and light green.
Now, I’ve improved considerably since my time in Oxford, certainly beyond the point that I could justify owning a $50 ambulatory alarm clock (though if anyone’s looking for a kooky birthday present…). Nonetheless, Clocky here goes to show that there is always money to be made catering to the lazy. After all, there are entire companies that have become hugely successful simply by manufacturing extremely comfortable chairs, some of which can give you massages. It’s about time someone used technology to address one of laziness’s more prominent downsides.
Update (2/8/07, 10:30 p.m.): Just in case this post isn’t self-deprecating enough already, Julie assures me that she told me about Clocky months ago, when it first came out. Clearly my alertness has not improved as much as I’d like to think.