Color Clock Makes Telling Time Impossible

[Bogdan] set out to build the all-too-familiar binary clock. But, he didn’t want to be ordinary, and set the goal of making the clock as hard to read as possible. What he ended up with is a clock that is almost impossible to read correctly.
He’s using colors to tell the time. We immediately thought this might make use of resistor codes as the display but it doesn’t. Red shows the hours, green for minutes, and blue for seconds. Now stack all of them on top of each other in binary and you’ve got the time. That means you’ve got to know all of your color combinations, plus read the binary value correctly, to decipher the time. Add to that the display changing every second and we’re in trouble.
Aside from the user difficulty level, this is a really clean build. It uses an ATmega8535 in conjunction with our favorite DS3232 RTC chip. The etched board is nice and clean, making for an aesthetically pleasing clock.

22 thoughts on “Color Clock Makes Telling Time Impossible

  1. “And I thought telling time with a analogue clock was hard.”

    geez, way back when I was in grade school you had to pass a test on that to advance to the 4th grade

  2. I have a hard time reading my clock at night without my glasses so I prototyped up an analog clock that went from red at midnight to green in the morning. I built it just to have a rough idea of the time when I woke up in the middle of the night.

  3. Bah, this project is for n00bs. If you want it to be really hard to read use IR and UV led’s and then don’t use Binary… Use Reverse BCD with EBCDIC encoding.

  4. @fartface Nah, if you REALLY want to build a hardcore LED clock, put 2 LEDs in Hr/Min format and then flash the LEDs at different frequencies and use your eyes to determine the time. 1:30 would be 1Hz:30Hz. Or go ubercore and make it 1kHz:30kHz.

  5. @osgeld we had to pass a test also; and while _I_ can tell time by an analog clock, it takes me a good 30 seconds to figure out what time it is with one.

    Except for style I see no reason for people to even have analog clocks; same with this hack actually. Kudos to the hacker who did this.

  6. Hey, just saw my clock here.
    The purpose of this clock is just fun. It’s especially fun to see guests trying to tell the time. I didn’t want to make it unreadable(that’s why i used visible LEDs).
    I also have like 5 more ideas of clocks that are not normally read. I might try them….so beware!

  7. Fun project. It looks like something out of close encounters. That said, I won’t bother trying to read the time on this. I have expensive “analog” watches for style that I don’t even use anymore. I’m getting older, all I want is a quick glance at the watch or clock and see the RIGHT time. No sense on wasting time reading the time :P

    I’ve settled for cheap “atomic” watches that always give the right time, down to the second. Expensive watches don’t always keep the right time. Surprisingly, every clock or watch I see posted here lacks what I consider this _must_have_ feature. I guess the RF receiver module must be hard to get or people get lazy to code for it.

  8. @JB
    I know about the time signal broadcast. I really don’t think it is that useful for a project like this to be that precise. The DS3232’s 2 ppm accuracy should be enough. Still, i consider the task of building a receiver a challenge for the future.
    Oh, and don’t think i am using this clock for telling the time. Although i built it about one year ago, i still can read the time much slower than on a digital clock.

  9. as for the Analog V digital time, most of the time i don’t need to know that it is 4:03, but around 4:05 or even near 4:00 is close enough.

    It’s a fun project, and a neat way to have the time on your desk in a way people can’t read.

  10. Though I’m colorblind and can’t really see all the typically visible colors, I’d love to see this done again with only one RGB led used and the 0-255 red codes for the “hours” from 0-23 (scaled linearly), the 0-255 green codes for the “minutes” from 0-59 (also scaled linearly) and likewise for blue with seconds. Then the single light would slowly change color and it would be really really hard to interpret.

    1. @Dan Fruzzetti
      I made a quick version of your idea in html5-canvas just to see what it would be like (I know it’s cheating, but I haven’t got any parts where I am at the moment): (space to toggle showing of time, f to enter fullscreen). Works in chrome16 and firefox9.

      This was just a quick mockup, and as you see there’s a jump between each full minute, hour and day that isn’t too gracious (because of the values wrapping from 255 to 0).

      A version using hsl instead of rgb might be interesting, where hue, saturation and luminosity represent hours, minutes and seconds. If you instead bind hours to luminosity/lightness and make it reach 255 in 12h and then reverse the direction you’d have it darker during night and brighter during daytime. But you wouldn’t be able to see a difference between some hours (21 and 03 would be the same, 20 and 04, 19 and 05 etc.)…

      Still quite fun though!

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