Learning to Read Time

Diana Beebe's Blog, Diana Beebe, science fiction, middle grade fantasy, fantasy, Mermaids Don't Do WindowsAnyone can tell time on an easy-peasy digital clock as long as she knows her numbers. Do you remember when you learned how to tell time on an analog clock with the hands that move around it?

Somewhere in our human history, a brilliant person figured out how to build a clock with delicate wheels and gears and screws and pulleys and stuff I don’t even know the words for.

(Remember the clear Swatch watches in the 1980s? I wished I had one so I could wear it with my one Swatch—wearing multiple Swatches was cool. I wasn’t.)

That mechanism moved little hands around in a circle to keep time with the units of measurements (24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour…) that everyone decided was a good standard.

When The Armadillo brought home a clock she made at school last year, I was impressed. In one day, she understood the concept by using this paper clock.

Diana Beebe's Blog, Diana Beebe, science fiction, middle grade fantasy, fantasy, Mermaids Don't Do Windows

It’s so simple to have the minutes under the hour. Now that she can count by fives, the minutes are even easier.

My brother told me that he didn’t learn to read an analog clock until he was in college when he bought a barber’s clock. He thought it was cool and different (he’s just that way), because it was flipped backwards and worked counterclockwise. A barber would hang the clock behind him so he could watch the time in the mirror in front of him.

After one day of watching the counterclockwise clock, my brother understood the mechanics of it all. He could tell time on a normal clock after that.

My brother isn’t even left handed. (This site claims lefties read time backwards easier. *shrug* I’d love to know what lefties think about that.)

What’s your favorite way to tell time? Does anyone wear a watch anymore? Do you remember when you learned to tell time on an analog clock?

15 comments on… “Learning to Read Time”

  1. I love clocks! I have a beautiful grandfather clock from England that stands like an English guard from the Queens court in our kitchen/breakfast room. We love the warm patina of the 300 plus year old cabinet. We wind it every week, on Sundays. I love to tell time on that piece. I feel a connection to the past and I wonder who owned it, where did it sit in their home, did the children of the house beg to take turns cranking the weights?
    I learned to tell time on our kitchen wall clock. It now hangs in our 1950 style basement rec room. Thanks for the memories!

  2. Diana, this was such fun to read and think about! I still wear a watch, but mostly for fashion rather than telling time (middle-aged eye thing, ha!). My office has a time/day/date wall clock that is synched to the ticking second to an atomic clock via satellite – a company retiree gave to me upon cleaning out his office before on the way out the door – and I think that’s kind of cool (digital, of course). For those of us with desk jobs, it’s right there on the computer, and of course our phones are usually in a pocket or bag, but never far from our hand. I wish I could remember when I learned…am sure it was at home with Mom, and am sure she made it fun. Those brain cells seem to have lost their mojo (smiles). Would be nice to escape to Hawaii for a bit and forget about hours/minutes/seconds and just think about sunrises and sunsets…ahhhh.

  3. We have a grandfather clock at the top of the staircase at home that was Ken’s grandfather’s (serendipity!) and because the chiming isn’t conducive even to my very deep sleeping, it is a sentimental decorative furnishing perfect for that space…and nothing more. It may be haunted thought (in a happy way)…we call the clock “Howard” after Ken’s grandfather, and about twice a year, “Howard” chimes for no apparent reason…and we look at one another and tell the clock “Hi Howard”. Howard apparently prefers to make certain he is never forgotten – and he never is (smiles).


    • Diana Beebe


      That is such a great story! I love Howard. Does Howard chime at the same time every time? That would be really amazing if the chimes were consistent, and what is the meaning behind them? (You can see the wheels turning, can’t you?)

      As for learning to tell time with your mom, I bet that was a fun experience. Your mom is pretty awesome!

  4. Wow, I see those wheels turning, and they’re smokin’! I’m truly embarrassed, both as an engineer and as someone who (I thought was) intensely curious about everything, that in 20+ years I haven’t kept track as you’ve suggested. All it would take is to put a little notebook and pen on “Howard’s” head so I could jot down the chiming and see if there’s a pattern. You’re brilliant! The scientist in me wants to know “why the pattern?!” so I could explain it to myself mechanically (the ‘friendly haunting’ thus being dispelled, although that is such great fun to play with) – but oh no, never to repair him. I have absolutely no idea. It’s always just 2 chimes, the pendulum never moves (except which I shift “Howard” to vacuum beneath him but I stop that thing from swaying pronto, don’t want to wake him up). Hmmmm, the scientist just made a mental note…although I do vacuum more than twice a year. No – seriously – MORE than twice (ha!).


    • Diana Beebe


      I’m sure you do vacuum more than twice a year. 😉

      So now you have to keep track, don’t you? I see your wheels turning! LOL Didn’t mean to create a monster. (Mwahahahahaha!)

      Wouldn’t it be cool if those two chimes happened on certain dates and times? What happened in Howard’s history on those dates? And I do mean Howard the clock, because it could’ve been around a lot longer than Howard the man.

  5. These days I wear a cheap digital Armitron. I actually prefer the analog watches but the ones I like are always expensive. And when I get them and actually wear them, I had a horrible habit of scratching or breaking the glass face. So I’ve trained myself to just abuse plastic digital ones. I actually like the old style pocket watches, depending on the designs. I thought about getting one of those but my pockets are just as dangerous as my wrist for a good watch. Ever since my ROTC days, when I wear digital, I use military time. Drives my son nuts. 🙂

  6. Oh my gosh, no, I don’t remember when I learned to tell time on an analog clock. I didn’t know that’s what they’re called! I know my kids didn’t want to learn to tell time on one. They were spoiled by digital clocks. I still wear a watch, but they bug me. I’m not a big jewelry person, but it beats pulling out my cell phone to see what time it is. And the playroom where I spend most of the day babysitting the grandkids doesn’t have a clock, so I need to wear my watch to time the baby’s feedings (every two hours). Well, a week ago while both babies were napping, I took my watch off and set it on the arm of the rocker/recliner. The baby woke up hungry, so I started to put my watch back on, but it slipped and fell into the opening of the recliner’s back and seat. I almost got my arm stuck in the stupid thing, feeling all around for my watch, but it’s gone. I think it’s actually a black hole. I’ve had some Tums and a couple of snacks disappear in there, too!

    Great story about the barber’s clock, how they’re backwards. That’s pretty cool your brother learned to tell time on one of those! Cool post, Diana. Hey, by the way, when I clicked on your name for the comment you left on my site to come to your blog, it took me to a search page. It had searched your name and then dot come instead of dot com, so I don’t know if that was just a one time error of if it’s in your Gravatar? I wanted to give you a heads up just in case.


    • Diana Beebe


      Oh, no! A black hole in the recliner? That’s serious! Don’t let the babies near it.

      I checked out my URL on your site. I typed “come” instead of “com”–I’m a fast, but poor typist. Oops! Thanks for letting me know.

  7. I like analog watches that have a big, clean face. Usually, that means no numbers, and sometimes no big minute marks either. The best thing about analogue time is that you can see if it is ‘nearly ten o’clock,’ rather than 09:48. How often do we really need the time to within more accuracy than five or ten minutes and don’t we all have devices that tell us the time accurately anyway? My watch is mostly decorative these days.
    On my boat, we have an old submarine clock that works on a 24 hour cycle. 00 is at the top, 12 at the bottom, 6 and 18 in the middle. The minutes are noted around the outside in smaller numbers, they are exactly the same as a normal clock, consequently the second hand ticks twice per second and can cause anxiety attacks in the susceptible (I kid you not).
    It is interesting to me that if clocks were invented in the Southern Hemisphere, clockwise would go in the other direction. The analogue clock hands follow the direction of travel of the shadow on a solar clock. Down Under, that shadow goes the other way.
    I guess this could be a feature in a science fiction novel but, like so many factoids that I have stored away, is otherwise totally useless.
    Interesting post, Diana 🙂


    • Diana Beebe


      Yes! I always round the time up or down, which drives my kids crazy. Who cares if it’s 09:48 or 09:50? Sheesh!

      That submarine clock sounds awesome! And, I love that idea–counterclockwise isn’t counter at all Down Under. LOL. Crazy planet. 😀

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