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The Mechanical Clock Essay


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The Mechanical Clock


Since the ancient days of Egypt, timekeeping has always been a crucial element of society. Historical records indicate that the earliest timekeeping devices were found in Ancient Egypt (Somervill, 2015). The obelisk, a long and thin monument similar to the Washington Monument, was initially used as a timekeeping device. The shadow cast by the obelisk on the ground was used to determine the time of day and year. Later at around 600BCE, the merkhet, an astronomical tool, was invented by the Egyptians. They were used in pairs to determine night time through observation of stars. Sundials, smaller versions of the obelisk, were created by 30BCE and were used in Italy, Asia Minor, and Greece. Clepsydras or water clocks were the first timekeeping devices that did not use the sun or stars to measure time. In Greece, the water clocks were modified mechanically to include moving parts, i.e. bells that could ring. The Chinese then built a mechanised tower clock with a bell that rang and a rotating globe.
Though not initially not very accurate, time keeping devices have continually improved in terms of accuracy and reliability. In the early 14th century, the Italians invented a new type of mechanical clocks that used weight distribution from heavy weights instead of water flow.
Though more accurate, its working was difficult to regulate. The early 1500s saw the invention of spring-powered clocks that allowed clocks to be smaller hence portable. Later in the 1600s, the very accurate pendulum clocks were invented. Quartz clocks were invented in the 1940s with better timekeeping performance compared to other inventions. Following the fall of the Roman empire, the clock’s influence increased because the monasteries and the church needed to create

an environment of order to minimise disorder in the world. They were used to alert monks to pray.
Artefactual Time

After invention, use of the mechanical clock spread quickly that two centuries later a town was not complete without a public clock and more people started owning clocks. They had become an essential part of human life. With the mechanical clocks in place, people were able to plan for their activities. As such, it became possible to synchronize human activities. The invention of the mechanical clock also dissociated human life from the organic patterns of life. For example, people started eating not because they felt hungry, but because it was time to eat. People also slept only when it was time sleep and not when they felt tired. The clock was used to sanction and condition human behaviour; hence human beings became more organised.
Today, people use the alarms to determine when they work up, when they go to work, among other activities. In short, the clock allowed people to use time more efficiently, but also it made humans slaves of time and schedules.
Human Behaviour

Precision and accurate timekeeping have a significant influence in both the United States and Europe. Accurate timekeeping drove economic development especially in the West hence the Industrial Evolution and eventually the concept of capitalism. Artefactual time allowed people to measure time in uniform and accurate ways which significantly influenced the way people live and work (TenHouten, 2015). The widespread private use of time allowed for punctuality. Typically, it made people attentive to the passage of time which increased both performance and productivity. Time affected human behaviour in different ways in different

parts of the world. For instance, a house that is 100 years old can be considered new Europe but old in America. In work behaviour, Americans work for longer hours compared to their European counter parts and are therefore more stressed. They also enjoy less vacation time.
Personal Behaviour

Artefactual time has significantly influenced my behaviour both personally and professionally. I rely on time to plan for my everyday activities. Artefactual time allows me to celebrate moments. The essence of having moments is time because without it there would be no moments. Artefactual time allows me to recognise and celebrate precious moments such as birthdays, anniversaries, and graduation. Moments bring memories which influence the way I live my present life. With artefactual time comes nostalgia. Time allows use to relieve past moments, activities, and even historical events such as the Holocaust. Such events have a significant influence on our behaviour because of the past influences the present and the future (Duffy, 2010). Without time, there could be not past, present, and future.
As an engineer, time is an everyday tool because it is used in the understanding of various engineering concepts and experiments. Typically, experiments require time to be accurate and precise to reduce errors. In engineering, time measurement errors can have determinantal effects especially about the completion of projects and reliability of research experiments. Artefactual time also determines whether or not I am punctual both in the classroom and the field. As an engineer, punctuality is important because it directly relates to productivity. The more punctual I am, the more productive I become as an engineer.


Duffy, T. (2010). The clock. New York, N.Y: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Somervill, B. A. (2015). The history of the clock. Chanhassen, Minn: Child’s World.
TenHouten, W. D. (2015). Time and Society. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.