The atomic clock is one of the latest technological advances in measuring and accurately keeping track of time. However, the technology that these clocks use is not exactly new.
In 1930, a Columbia University physics professor named Isidor Rabi developed a technique called atomic beam magnetic resonance. It took Mr. Rabi 15 years, but he incorporated this concept into the development of a highly accurate clock. By 1952, the first commercially feasible atomic clock was built. In fact, the first atomic clock was named, NBS-1, and became the ultimate calibration source for time around the world.
At the time, one of these atomic clocks cost approximately $20,000. Not exactly within the average family’s budget! However, with mass production techniques and worldwide competition, these clocks have become very affordable and can be found in many of today’s homes and businesses.
Does every home and business need an atomic clock? The following questions and answers will assist you in making an educated decision as to whether an atomic clock is a necessity for you.
What doe the term “Atomic Clock” really mean?
An atomic clock has an internal mechanism that uses radio frequencies to synchronize its current time and date with the U.S. Atomic Clock. The U.S. Atomic Clock is a radio controlled clock operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Ft. Collins, Colorado.
How Do They Work?
Every atomic clock contains a small antenna that receives a radio signal from Ft. Collins, Colorado, which relays the time and date to the millisecond. Once you have set the time zone to your location, the clock will constantly be updated from the U.S. Atomic Clock. It will even adjust automatically for daylight savings time.
Will an Atomic Clock Work in Every Location?
For the most part, these clocks can establish contact with the U.S. Atomic Clock radio signal in just about any location. Depending on your geographical location, the signal reception can take up to 72 hours to initialize the clocks date and time. Once the clock has established this initial contact, the time will be maintained automatically going forward. On rare occasions, placement of the clock near a personal computer, television, radio or microwave oven can create signal interference. Placement of the clock away from these items will usually resolve the signal issue.
Is a Radio Controlled Clock the Same as an Atomic Clock?
The short answer is – yes. The two terms are synonymous and can be used interchangeably. The differentiation is generally made for marketing purposes. For example, a more traditional wall clock or mantle clock will tend to be referred to as a radio-controlled clock, while a high-tech desk clock will be promoted as an atomic clock. It’s all about the marketing “spin”!
One of the greatest benefits of the atomic clock is that it maintains highly accurate time with no need for manual adjustments. Even if you experience a power outage, the clock will automatically reset itself as soon as power is resumed. Bottom line, these clocks are truly a set ’em and forget ’em necessity.