Lord Vetinari’s clock strikes again


Inspired by the maddening timepiece from Discworld, this clock keeps time, but anyone watching the seconds tick by may be mentally unstable for it. [Renaud Schleck] built the stuttering clock using very few components. He undertook the build after being inspired by the version which [Simon Inns] built.

The clock itself is a run-of-the-mill item which uses one battery to keep time. We’re always impressed by how these dirt-cheap things remain so accurate over the long haul — but we digress. The method of attack uses coil injection to drive the hands. [Renaud] used one of the microcontrollers from the MSP430 Launchpad, along with the clock crystal which also shipped with the kit, to gain control of the mechanism. The crystal triggers an interrupt which does the actual time-keeping. The seconds hand is driven rather sporadically based on an algorithm explained in his write-up.

You can watch the uneven ticking in the video after the break. Despite that visually disturbing functionality, the short and long ticks balance each other and the correct time continues to be displayed.

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Building a better clock to drive you insane

[Simon] came up with an improved version of Lord Vetinari’s clock that begs to be installed in waiting rooms around the world.

Last week, we were introduced to a real-life Vetinari Clock that keeps regular time but ticks at irregular intervals. It’s a great way to turn someone’s mind into porridge, but the original build broke after a few weeks because of some limitations in the clock drive. [Simon] built a very minimal circuit does away with these problems.

Just as in the first build, a microcontroller pulses the second hand motor once every second. As for the random component of this build, the microcontroller has a puts 32 bytes into a 128 byte array. The array is checked 4 times a second, and if the byte is 1, the second hand is incremented. If the byte is 0, time stops for a little bit. [Simon] included the schematic, board layout and code if you’d like to build one yourself.

There are a few drawbacks to this design; the pattern of ticking and not ticking is hard-coded into the microcontroller. Even though the 32 second long pattern shouldn’t be noticeable by watching the clock, it’s not an entirely random solution. Judging from the comments on the original build, using radioactive decay to increment a second might be a bit uncalled for.

We would like to see a second hand that stops when you look at it though. Facial recognition, anyone?