I’m reading Clock Repairing as a Hobby, though i’m not sure i’m actually understanding it at any practical level. It probably doesn’t help i bought the Kindle version, and am thus reading it mostly off the tiny screen of my Touch – which is great for most books but not so great for books with tons of diagrams ending up about five tiny page-flips away from the paragraphs describing them. Still, if i’d bought a dead-tree version i’d just sit it on a shelf to browse occasionally instead of stuffing it my pocket to actually read, and as i have neither horology tools nor spare clocks to take apart i’d not likely retain any of the knowledge anyway.
Despite not understanding most of it, i’m at least thinking about things i’d never considered before. Like chimes. It somehow never occurred to me to wonder how century-old clocks can functionally chime the hour, or even play little bits of music. It’s one of those things i still don’t nearly understand, something about a little snail-wheel with twelve steps moving a bit every hour and the chime levers being triggered X number of times based on what step they end up on when some other lever does something else… Right. It’s a brilliantly clever system, though, and i’m wondering now how i managed to go so long without ever stopping to think ‘Wait, there’s no computer in there telling it how many times to chime – how does it do that?!?’
I think this is the first time in my life i’ve been almost sad by how easy computers make everything. Necessity being the mother of invention, in the old days, when horologists needed their clocks to make noise every hour, they had to design complex and beautiful systems of gears and levers. Now we can do the same with a few lines of code. Even if some brilliant engineer were trying to build an analogue clock with no previous knowledge how they worked, e’d probably use some sort of computer workings instead of gears for the chiming bit. Maybe even the chimes would be mechanical, but triggered – and timed – not by gear trains, but little sets of electrical contacts lining up on the hours… lovely, but just not the same.
Of course, they also had to readjust the pendulums practically every time the weather changed, and pull out the mechanics every few years for cleaning, and do a ridiculous amount of other stuff which more than cancels out the brilliance of the gears. But still. Chimes.