Traditionally, most clocks us the round analog face with 12 numbers and a hand that shows the minutes. There’s a bit of a skill involved in reading it, as any child who hasn’t yet learned how to do that can tell you.
Digital clocks, which started to become popular in the 1970s, have simplified that, telling us the time using the exact numbers that represent the time. At three minutes after twelve, a digital clock will read 12:03. That’s simple enough that most anyone can understand it.
Binary clocks, on the other hand, are a bit more complex. They have their fans, but admittedly, they’re not that easy to read, even if you do know the secret.
Binary clocks work in base 2, where the only available digits are 0 and 1. It’s the basis for how computers work, as 0 can mean “off” and 1 can mean “on.” It’s also the system used by designer Lucas and his fiancee and partner, Claire, who created The City Clock, which is now being offered as a kit on Kickstarter.
This clock, which resembles the sort of four story building that you might see on the streets of Paris, was inspired by that city. Each of the windows in the building can contribute to showing you the time.
The building has 16 windows in a 4×4 grid. Each column of windows represents a digit to display minutes and seconds in a 24 hour format.
The lowest row represents a value of 1. The next row represents a value of 2. The third row represents a value of 4, and the top row represents a value of 8.
To learn the time, one must look at the value of the lights in each column and add them up.
In the image above, the column on the left has one light on the first row, which indicates a value of 1. There are lights in the second column on the second row (a value of 2) and the third row (a value of 4.) These are added to 6, which combined with the 1 from the first column, means that the hour of the day is 16 (or 4 PM for Americans.)
A similar process is done with the remaining two columns. A value of 4 in the third column indicates 40 minutes and a value of 8 in the last column indicates 8 minutes, making the time 16:48.
The clock is sold in kit form, using laser-cut wood panels and easy-to-assemble electronics. How easy? According to the Kickstarter page, it takes about 10 minutes to assemble the clock, which comes in complete form starting at about $100.
The clock is powered by a USB cable, so you’ll need to have some sort of computer device handy in order to operate it.
Binary clocks are novel and this one certainly qualifies. Granted, it takes a bit of getting used to in order to figure out the time and chances are that most owners will never get entirely comfortable with it.
Still, it’s a fun and affordable project that makes for a nice decoration as well as a good conversation piece.
You can learn more about the City Clock at the Kickstarter site.