Whether you prefer digital or analog, there's a good chance that a wall of your classroom, the desk in your office or a bank you passed on your ride to work or school sported a clock. If that isn't enough, there's the clock in the family car, and all of the ones on the DVD players, VHS players, cable or satellite boxes, televisions, microwaves, coffee makers and ovens. The time seems to be everywhere, but that wasn't always the case.
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Clocks can be found just about everywhere. The first clock was most likely a stick partly buried in the ground. As the sun made its circuit across the sky, the shadow cast by the stick moved in measurable increments. This was a rudimentary sundial; a smart, if limited, way to tell the time. Accuracy was the real problem when it came to early man's attempt to lock down short-time measurement. The sun was a great indicator, but the system didn't work at night or when it was cloudy outside. Another problem was that the length of the day changed throughout the year, changing whatever incremental measurement was set to mark the time.
In the 2nd century, Ptolemy, a Greek astronomer, deduced that placing a slanted object parallel to the Earth's axis would provide a consistent incremental measurement regardless of the season [source: Behar]. This led to standardized time measurement, solving one problem. The second problem, telling time when the sun wasn't shining, inspired a number of ingenious solutions. Water clocks used dripping water, leaving a small opening in a container to mark the passage of time. Candles were also widely used because they burned at a consistent rate when there was no breeze. Romantic methods like hourglasses were also widely employed, but it wasn't until around the beginning of the 14th century that a new, reliable method came on the scene: the mechanical clock.
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