A brilliant alarm clock

I'd like to take some time today to praise the CASIO DQ-850 alarm clock. Yes, really.

A couple of years ago, I had to buy my parents an alarm clock. Again. New clock springs are made of dry leaves, or so it felt after their OCD cranking busted yet another. Digital clocks seemed to be beyond their device handling skills, resulting in them being afraid to switch it off for the weekend, and needing help to deal with DST. Battery operated clocks with analogue faces proved to be easily susceptible to both normal wear and tear and the occasional drop. Drops were much more common than you'd think, as all such reasonably priced alarm clocks had poorly accessible controls, thus necessitating handling (and fumbling) in the dark.

I found the DQ-850 in the very back of the shop shelf, with tags indicating it had been laying about for a decade, and bought it for a song. And yet, it is superbly designed for the elderly in your life. Since this is a blog filled with problems, take a look at it and see if you can figure out why it's post-worthy - my answer is after the fold :

First of all, it's easy on the eyes: The display is large and legible. The LCD screen is polarised at just the right angle, so your head doesn't even need to leave the pillow. The face is discreetly backlit in the last 8hrs before your alarm goes off, so you don't really need to handle it during the night (though it does become  brighter when you hit the snooze bar across the top). The bright red alarm slider  means you can tell if it's on from across the room as well. There's a slightly less medicinal looking version with a black body and a blue snooze button if you so prefer.

Second, it's easy to handle. It is large, solid and grip-shaped. It operates on two C batteries inserted low, so it's hefty enough to minimise knocking over. And of course, everything is corrugated for extra grip. Except for the snooze bar, which is rubberised for the same reason.

Third, it's Luddite-friendly. A lot of the problems with the digital alarm clocks tended to come from state. That is, the effect of one button was determined by whether something else was pushed beforehand. For example, on one clock, pushing button H(our) could set the time, or the alarm, or switch between 12 and 24 hour display, or nothing, depending on other controls. Don't even get me started on the clock that behaved differently depending on length of key-press.

The DQ-850 is pleasantly stateless. Sliding up the bottom right trigger turns the alarm on. The true brilliance lies on the clock's sides. The knob on the alarm setting side moves the alarm time backwards and forwards. The knob opposed sets the time in the same manner, and that's it. (The knobs are spring-loaded, so just grabbing it by the side is highly unlikely to mess the settings up.) Barely required controls, such as reset and 12/24H are tucked inside the battery compartment, further simplifying the interface.

Finally, it's as noisy as the large batteries allow, which is quite a lot, but it starts beeping sparingly and picks up frequency the longer it is ignored.

With the advances in LED tech, I can see ways to make the display much brighter when required. Also, batteries seem to need changing in the frequency you'd expect from slighter cells, but that's about all in my list of complaints. I'm expecting that cheque from CASIO to clear any day now.


Anonymous said...

Hallo, I own one of these since 1996, I even brought it with me when I was in the army.
The only damages in those years were made to the battery compartment door, which dents were broken due to numerous falls from the bedside table (cats and kids are cruel towards bedside items). Today I changed the batteries and discovered that the left button is getting a bit tricky to work. Oddly the right button is working fine, and it's the button I use most.

Wish your alarm clock a very long life, thank you for this nice post :)

Greetings Giovanni