2014.04.02 My clock's better than yours

When I graduated from Morenci High School in 1972, my parents gave me a clock-radio to take with me to college. It was a state-of-the-art Magnavox—a cube-shaped plastic item with wood-like coloring. You could call it a digital clock, because the numbers were on square disks that flipped into view, changing once per minute.

I can still hear the click of the numbers turning over each minute. When I say “I can still hear the click,” I don't mean that I can hear it in my memory. I mean that this clock is still functioning 42 years later. Magnavox made some quality products. My clock-radio was built for them in Japan. 

Just to provide some perspective, I received this gift the year President Nixon falsely declared that the White House played no part in the Watergate Hotel break-in. The Godfather movie was released that year. It was a while ago. But the clock is still going. 

The radio on my clock has three settings; AM, FM, and AFC. That's Automatic Frequency Control. Once you find the station you want on FM, you switch to AFC to keep the station from drifting. If you don't have AFC on your radio, I feel sorry for you.

In addition to the radio alarm, the clock can make an impressively loud buzzing alarm sound. You could easily mistake it for a fire alarm. I know this, because at the University of Michigan I shared a dorm room with two other guys, and one night the dorm had a fire alarm drill. A roommate of mine heard the alarm, jumped out of bed and started pounding on my radio and turning the dials, trying to switch it off.

That was the 70s. Disco music arrived. My younger brother wore a leisure suit in his school photo. In 1976 I unplugged my radio, packed it into a Ford Econoline van, and drove off for the West Coast with my then girlfriend. I plugged it back in when I settled in Oregon. In 1982, I packed it in a used Oldsmobile and headed north, replugging the radio in a suburb of Seattle.

That was the year Michael Jackson released Thriller. The first CD player was sold in stores. I worked for a while, went back to school, got a degree, and bounced around through a few different addresses and jobs. At some point the “slumber” alarm-delay switch broke off my Magnavox. 

Let's move up to 1992. In November, Bill Clinton was elected. Two Seattle bands, Nirvana and Pearl Jam, were very popular. My clock continued its service. The light that illuminated the clock face dimmed and finally went out. 

There was a long period when I let the clock's alarm take a rest. For about ten years I used a “sunlight” alarm that gradually turned on an incandescent bulb, simulating a gentle sunrise. It didn't last as long as the clock. 

We'll hop forward another decade. I purchased my first cell phone around 2002. In those days cell phones mostly just made phone calls. The Winter Olympics were in Salt Lake City. George Bush started the Department of Homeland Security. My clock kept rolling.

The only time the clock annoys me is when I have to reset it for daylight savings time. There are two ways to change the time. One is to turn the dial that manually flips the numbers forward in time. It doesn't go backwards, so sometimes you have to flip through the entire 24-hour cycle using a tiny dial that hurts your fingers. The other way is to unplug it, wait till the time is correct, and plug it back in.

2012 rolled around. Curiosity Rover landed on Mars. The music video, Gangnam Style, caught the world's attention for no obvious reason. President Barack Obama was re-elected. Dan's clock-radio celebrated its 40th birthday and kept turning over. 

We've arrived at the present day. I turn 60 this year and the Magnavox turns 42. I guess that means I've owned the device for 70 percent of my life. How many of your electronics purchases have lasted that long? Are your 8-tracks still working? 

I admit it, I'm bragging now. My clock has counted about 22 million minutes and isn't ready to quit. That's a high-quality product. It's still celebrating my graduation from MHS.