Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Synchronize your watches

Remember all those WW2 commando epics, and right before the big mission they all synchronize their watches? Well, I dare you to do that in a digital world. The machine era guys tried to make things easy to work. Watches were great. Assuming you wound it up and kept it attached to your wrist, it's a snap. Setting it is the easiest thing in the world. Find the approximate time. Pull the dial out and twist everything to the right time. Push in when Captain Mallory says "mark." The BBC World Service even still has their tones for setting your watch at the top and bottom of every hour. "Bip,bip, bip, bip, bip, bip, BEEP" and push in the knob. You are on to the second.
There is, however, no way to do this in the digital era. Just among devices I have at hand:
  • Entry into edit modes:
  • Changing the time could be forward-only, or forward and backwards; it could go on its own speed (maybe with two speeds) or each increment is a button push; the whole time could be as one, or hours and minutes could each have their own buttons; most have key repeat, but how much and how fast?
But none of them have an explicit exit mode. They time out, eventually, sometime. When does the time entered take effect? It depends. And you can't tell. So there's no good way to set time to the second. This makes me sad.


John Bossert said...

Even on dial watches with hour, minute and second hands, I've still always found it impossible to synchronize down to the second. When you pull out the stem on such a watch, you have control of the hour and minute hands, but not the second hand. I guess you'd have to think a minute or two ahead and try to stop your watch when the second hand was straigt up at 12. Then, you could set the hour and minute hands, and when the boss yells "Mark," everyone could start their watches up at the same time. Still seems fiddly and difficult. With digital watches, it's often possible to set the hour and minute and then reset the seconds to '00'. In a way, it would be easier to synchronize a digital, I think.

Breezer said...

Posting a comment because on your blog page it reads "1 comments" and that is driving me crazy.

fvanrijn said...

In response to John, the watches issued to the military in WWII were specially made to stop the second hand by pulling the stem (I have a replica). This was not a common feature at the time. You can do this with any quartz dial watch now. Even with this feature, though, the second hands on each watch would be in different places, and I don't understand how they synch the watches so quickly in the movies.

fvanrijn said...

OOps, read John's post again, CAREFULLY this time. Having a DUH moment. I realize now he's making the same point I'm making. SORRY EVERYBODY. My WWII watch is still cool, though.

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