Monday, February 07, 2005

Back around 20 years ago, my friend, Clint Stewart, noticed that whenever he saw an advertisement for a digital alarm clock, it almost always showed the time 12:08. We'd see this in catalogs, newspaper advertisements and often on the clocks themselves. I recall buying a digital alarm clock in college and having to peel off the "12:08" sticker that had been applied to it, presumably so that the customer would understand that the clock was indeed capable of displaying some sort of time.

This was quite a mystery for us. Why 12:08? Was it a biblical reference? A warning? An effort by the powerful alarm-clock lobby to cause confusion across the land?

These days 12:08 seems to have fallen out of fashion. A quick perusal on the web shows all sorts of times, mostly in the 12:3x family (12:34 and 12:38 are popular choices). Although the Sony's and the Casio's of the world have forgotten about 12:08, I have not.

So, I ask you all, why 12:08? Why did this time so completely dominate the digital clock advertising landscape 20 years ago? I have my theory, but I'd like to hear yours, oh dear reader(s).


amy said...

you are the sixth blog i've read in a row who has mentioned alarm clocks. what the hell is going on?

Mike said...

Inky, that's pretty spooky. I blame Dick Cheney.

nomax said...

Reverse engineering some long lost marketing dweeb's thinking: You have to show the display in full swing, so that means 11 or 12 in the hour (no way you are going to use the 24hr clock in the US, too foreign for Joe Sixpack). 12 beats 11 as it has two different digits.

Now you have to show an 8, as this proves the damn thing has all the display segments required, and as this cannot be the first minute digit, it has to be the last.

Ok now we have accounted for the pattern you see of 12:x8.

You are left with a pick of 0,3,4,5 (you already showed 1 and 2). Ok now its a stretch, but 4 is unlucky on some cultures (I think). 5 is too esthetically busy next to that 8.

See, easy. 12:08 or 12:38 are the natural marketing dweeb choices.

It's all in the wrist.

Mike said...

Nomax, you clever little bastard, I like your answer. My very similar answer will be documented in my next post.