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Timer switches: literally just a clock and a switch
- Published on Jan 24, 2023 veröffentlicht
- It's about time.
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- Science & Technology
Comments • 2 403
Worthy of note: the motor-driven timers consume 3W constantly - and with modern LED lighting, that means that depending on what you want the timer to do... it may not save any energy! If you use it to control a lamp with a single 5W bulb for 8 hours day, then it saves 80 watt-hours while also consuming 72 watt-hours. In that specific case, you might as well just leave the light on all day and forget having a timer!
Just wonderful! You really go into detail! I love it :D
@John Andrews Absolutely. ESP is my go-to for homebrew stuff.
@Ben C Naylor I bought one this year. It crashed and some of my plants died. It was also a PITA to operate. I'm planning on gutting it and replacing the innards with something homebrew.
The absolutely ceaseless smattering of puns is why I love this channel.
hahahahhahahahahhahHHHhHhhHahahahahahahah hahahahahaha hahahahahahaha hahahahahahahaha
@Evan Horvath Much better. Your rethought take after having your original attitude reflected back at you speaks only of your normal experience without projecting compliance with your experience onto others this time. Cheers
Icing on an already funny cake lol
@Rishnai Yes they are, if I try to read them. If I am reading, I cannot retain what I am hearing.
@Evan Horvath Nah mate, most people have no trouble with them. Try headphones, they help most people focus better. Genuine question: when you watch TV shows or movies in cities, are the billboards and store names distracting for you? If not, why?
When I was a kid we called those "coffee timers", at least in my family. Namely, it was a timer into which you plugged the coffee pot. A few years ago I went to the store and asked where they had "coffee timers". They looked at me like I was speaking Greek.
I always thought they were internet router times. Shows the eras we grew up in.
never heard it called coffee timer but remember as a kid seeing my parents use one to turn a coffee pot off and on. later in life I would buy one myself to use on a christmas tree and outdoor lighting.
My Mom would use them on crock pots and toaster ovens while we went out for the day.
Looking back, we are lucky the house didn't burn down.
christmas tree timers for me!
Seen them on ovens in Europe but its been decades
I would be willing to say Intermatic likely was the first company that made timer switches. They are still around today making things like pool timers, but their staple is delay on, delay off, and even more sophisticated relays!
EDIT: Tab storage - It's literally right there!!!! To store the tabs, you set the tab for on, and then place the rest of the "on" tabs in the section where it will be on... Then set your off time and place the remaining "off" tabs in the section where it will be off. Too bad they never bothered to put that in the instructions...
Oh hey; my grandmother did that. I often wondered why there were extra ones when I was little, especially since they clearly weren’t necessary to keep it on. (Though that said she did some stupid electrical things too, like bypassing the ground on her roof antenna for reasons she couldn’t remember, and later frying a TV during a storm.)
When my dad figured this out with ours several years back, I was blown away.
That's literally what I was thinking. Lol
@ColonelSandersLite Yes, I thought the same thing as well. I took one apart and tried lubricating it with Teflon, and then oil and that didn't help very much. I used a toothpick to press sideways on a few of the gears. Some pressures quieted it down a fair bit so I guessed the damage had already been done and there was no fixing the sloppiness in the gears. Then I took it apart a little further, just for the hell of it, and discovered that even without the gears it was making noise. It was the motor itself. I took the motor apart but could discover nothing further because I utterly destroyed the motor.
@Nescobar Aloplop General Electric had put clocks into their electric ranges, and gave them the ability to switch the oven on or off at set times, as early as 1924 (US Patent 1,495,020.) (I always wondered why my mom's stove had a clock built into it.) At some point, some genius thought to remove it from the stove and make it into a general-purpose switch.
Thank you for always making me interested in things I never even notice. These devices are so standard in terrarium or aquarium setups that I took them for granted. They're surprisingly nifty!!
It is kind of heart warming to see how much well deserved attention is given to such a humble everyday item. I can almost see them blush as you present their simple innards.
I like getting up in them guts. 😁
Simple, yet ingenious!
I'd blush too if someone was showing off my innards in a youtube video.
Well put hahah
If you want a timing sequence that has a period longer than 24 hours, you can plug one timer into another. The second timer runs only when it gets current from the first. You can get really complicated switching patterns that way, but it is really confusing...
Or get a smart switch.
I have several Intermatic switches with the little green & red time pegs for on & off. They are super reliable and easy to program. Top notch!
@Benedikt The 12 o'clock flasher. If only they could modulate a BCD timecode onto the local mains :D
@TorontoLS But where's the fun in that?
This quickly becomes a topic for the Numberphile channel.
I'm so happy to have stumbled upon your channel a couple months ago. I've learned so many things about the complexity of things I took for granted. And I find myself more curious than ever about how things work nowadays.
These videos are always so interesting, and I always look forward to your deep dives into historical tech. They remind me of episodes of the old British show The Secret Life of Machines.
I’m 47 and those Intermatics gave me a powerful blast of nostalgia. My grandfather used to use those a bunch in his house. I remember walking around as a little kid thinking they looked so cool and complicated. Got older, he passed, and I found a few of his laying around. They are very cool, and fairly bullet proof. I’d much much rather have that ‘70s Intermatic than the one with the digital programmable display. Those are a pain to program.. and then after you learn it you forget the next year when you have to do it again. Now a days of course, smart home IoT devices do all this. Yep, nostalgia.
@Matthias Görgens An IoT switch is "on the Net" and can be controlled from anywhere. (One advantage of the mechanical Intermatic switches is that a hacker in Bulgaria can't turn your lights on and off.)
@SquidCaps What's IoT in your opinion that WiFi isn't already?
You can bet I'm going to remember and use "morpho-sisticated".
I'm your age and have had to use timers quite a lot (ok, i haven't always had to use them but since they are around...).. You are right about the digital timers, trying to program them using only two buttons is a nightmare and so i use mechanical timers if current allows it. Also, the digital timers still use a battery backup and those can crap on you...
The next timer is going to be WiFi but NOT IoT... Do not buy IoT if you don't need it, the security on those are abysmal. WiFi or Bluetooth is usually all you need anyway.
I’d really love to see an ice maker episode! They’ve always fascinated me and it would be very cool to see you do it!
I use an outdoor version of the 3rd mechanical one with the 48 pins to control my pool pump. I have it set to run for one hour at 3 different times each day. Pretty handy and quite reliable!
Yup, my pool filter/pump controller has a couple big fancy high amperage ones of these (in reality the internals are probably practically identical… hate to think what that relay looks like inside) built in for controlling the heat pump and filter.
It's a testament to your video making prowess and progress that such a polished and entertaining video is deemed a "No Effort" video.
Do note that the title "no effort" often refers to the device being investigated. Notice that they are all automated.
I was thinking the same thing!
He says he has something big in the works and needs a filler. Then drops bangers
i hope no one actually thinks this video took "no effort" ... lol :P
No effort = 16 minute video, fully scripted, light research, dismantling multiple clocks 😂
I was hoping you would cover my favorite doo--dad, the timer I use for my holiday (Halloween and Chrismas) lights: it plugs into the wall (or in my case my outdoor plug) and has three outlets on it. It also has a dial that allows you to either turn it on, or set it to 2, 4, 6, 8 or "all night". It has an electric eye that detects when it gets dark and turns on the lights for the specified time. It is one of the most insanely useful things I have ever bought...
Another enjoyable dive into a common, overlooked household gadget. I really like the early "pre wall wart" style Intermatic Time-Alls that sat on a table and had a power cord. Just neater IMO.
You can store the removable tabs right next to the in-use tabs. For example put 3 ON tabs together right after the desired ON time and 3 OFF tabs together right after the desired OFF time. That's what I do for my outdoor landscape light transformer timer.
I've got a bunch of the type with the removable tabs. We put them on a few lights any time we'll be out of town for more than a few days so lights come on and off, making it look like people are home to reduce the chance of someone
attempting to burgle.
Also useful for my grow lights I use to grow herbs in the winter (no window sunlight here in NY winter).
I can't believe how you weren't absolutely furious with how these digital timers are unintuitive. Maybe it's just these I have ever used. And as always, amazing video!
Sadly these days you just have to get used to them to some degree. Our wireless thermostat is pretty much like this (with the addition of temperature controls as well) and the LCD is always really hard to see.
Hey, it's the timer I sent you like 3 years ago! 😅
Thank you so much for such a cool video involving the old 1970's timer. Your "why are electric switches clicky" video had just come out and I figured you might find something interesting to say about the mechanism. Wow, wasn't expecting a whole video on timer switches as I didn't think there was much to them! Also total win on the plug detents.
“Way back when when.”
Better late than never.
he dredged it up for this video 😎 nice gift !
Three years? I guess Alec could have timed this better.
Thanks buddy. My mom used that same exact timer to fire up her coffee maker every day of my childhood, so this brought back a ton of memories.
These things are nigh on indestructible as well, it was in use well into the mid 2000s when she finally forked out for a coffee maker with a built in clock.
This is by far, my favorite youtube channel. Never stop what you do.
Finding a device that uses the spade holes is honestly very exciting.
Alec, it is unbelievable to me how we have at some point in our lives probably had the same ward niche interest in some seemingly mundane object and this is another one. I've gone through periods of mini obsessions with timer switches several times, to the point that I have a collection of them. Tons of intermatic Time-All's and plenty of other weird ones, like one particularly unique very old 1930's? Art Deco one with a mechanical wind up clock, I love these things!
Make a video of them
We have some hybrid electronic/mechanical timers you might like. They use the same timer as that electronic one you showed, but instead of a relay they have a linear motor and mounting bracket for a light switch. When it's time to actuate the motor moves some bars with wheels which flips the switch.
I remember those mechanical timers well, mainly because my parents had a handful of them around the house when I was growing up, and KEPT them around for years. I wouldn't be surprised at all if they still have at least one of them in a drawer somewhere, and that they've actually used it to turn their lights on when on vacation in recent years. They were very much like that first timer you demonstrated, though I don't think any of them were that exact model. But it's really cool now to finally see how they work!
The removable tabs can be stored on the timer. Just insert all the spare "on" taps into a time span where its already on, and the spare off ones into a time span where its already off. This has issues if you only want it to be on or off for a very short period each day, but otherwise works pretty well (or at least it did for me back when I used the exact timer you showed). Sadly they tended to wear out pretty fast when used 24/7. Great for seasonal use though.
I do this also.
Precisely how mine are still stored.
@Robbles Meaks That looks like a nice fun project for a cheap Raspberry Pi Pico W!
I don't think it has an internal clock itself, but it can connect online somewhere and fetch the time.
Add it a few buttons and a relay and the rest is some Python code, easy to learn with lots of documentation and examples online, and a good community for help, support and ideas.
Yeah, that's how I stored them. I still use mine on my daughter's fish tank lights. It works great
@Jeffrey Jakucyk My water heater timer did that. The pressure on the switch was too much and would pop them off. Then it stopped the turning altogether. Really just junk. My dream is to redesign it with a digital timer to a contactor.
I love these analog, ultra-mechanical timers. I have that first one and it's great for setting up an indoor grow lamp for plants.
We have a few that are like the second and third versions. I really like the ones with the push buttons. I have one on my ancient coffee maker and another to heat the bathroom in the morning. We also have one with the removable tabs to run our pond and water features I also have a really nice digital one but it's so complicated I don't use it
While I appreciated the accuracy and thoroughness, "morphosisticsted" is my key takeaway. Joking sside, I install a lot of intermatic commercial mechanical timers. I believe the key difference between them and the consumer units you investigated is that the consumer units bare a horsepower rating. Maybe in a future video you could discuss the difference between units that can handle inrush current vs timers that are only good for small groups of lights?
Great content like always! but if I may make a humble suggestion that may help you out next time you are using the "peg /tab" style version. I hate losing small pieces as well and I understand your frustration with the lack of "extra peg/tab" storage on the back of the Timer switch, however there is actually "intergraded onboard" peg storage in the front of the timer. To use this storage all you need to do is put all the green tabs in after you set the time you want it to come on and all the red tabs in after the time you want it off. Example you want the timer to come on at 1pm and go off at 5pm, And your timer came with 3 green tabs and 3 red tabs. Put the green tabs in at 1pm, and another green tab at 1:30pm or 2pm , and the Third green tab in the slot for 2:30pm or 3 pm. Then take the first red tab and place it at 5pm , the second at 6, and the third red tab at 7 . As you stated @ 3:33 of your video the On tabs can only turn it on so you can have them slotted one right after the other its ok the other two tabs wont actually make a connection with anything, and the same is true for the Red tabs, after the first red tab turns it off the following red tabs will not make contact, so its like they just get to "ride" a very small Ferris wheel as they should never come in contact with the switch. I hope that my example helps this concept make sense, (its very wordy, and might not be as clear as I would of liked it to be, sorry) . You have taught me so many things over the years, and I just want to share that trick with you , keep up the great work, and thank you for all the knowledge through the years!
I have the second timer. You store the extra tabs by just plugging them into the dial. As you pointed out, they perform a no-op if they are on a part of the dial where the event they handle is already triggered.
Something I love about your videos (among other things) is how there's a sort of "Technology Connections curriculum," for a lack of a better words, that builds off of previous knowledge I already know (or have the opportunity to learn by clicking the i card). There's almost a certain chronology to it, yet it doesn't necessitate watching every video in order. Additionally, this enhances my knowledge about all of the *connections* between various *technologies.* Hmm, I guess that's why it's called that...
Technological progress is knowledge building on top of previous knowledge. You may have first realized this concept through videos but it's the entire way that science works.
Technology Connections has probably taught me more than my almost 2 yrs of college 😅
To fully understand the curriculum, you must understand latent heat and the refrigeration cycle.
it's truly the Good Eats of things you can't or at least shouldn't eat.
I have a few of those with the removal tabs. They work great, and came in handy when I did a lot of travelling.
Always wonder how they works inside, I had my doubts, but you showed me I was mostly right. Like always another amazing video. Might be no effort, but it was worth watching.
You are so cool & I love this amazing channel that you’ve built.
You rock so much & I’m so glad that you make this stuff for us.
Been watching you for awhile now & im so thankful I found this channel.
It’s so intricate & cool & interesting even when the stuff is “obsolete” or “redundant.”
Thank you for bringing us many many hours of curiosity & joy in learning. In this case the info is also useful, but it’s almost always so fascinating.
I shame to admit but I was skeptical about this video. I mean, timer switches?
But that was educational and entertaining as always. Especially the way you introduced the evolution of this devise. Alec You are a natural born teacher and I say it with my up most respect.
Thank you for all your wonderful videos.
I really like these videos about interesting and useful technology that we often overlook! Since you were talking about clocks again, I would love to see a video about mechanical clocks and their time keeping, but more specifically, how they have improved over time, comparing springs vs. weights, and most notably, one of the most accurate escapements: the double three legged gravity escapement that was designed by Edmund Beckett Denison.
I think Alec hinted at that in this video. He's a sly guy.
Interesting, I have a k-mart branded one that appears to be of a similar age to the first intermatic you showed (circa 1970s). It has 24 switches, one for each hour.
My grandparents have the second timer shown, and I see it lying around every time I visit them, but never investigated its inner workings. So cool!
Not gonna lie, this channel is bringing up the charm and the cleverness in older devices, I like them a little more every time I learn about them.
I love how simple this design is; it feels like something you might be charged with designing in some game about electrical engineering
The knob on that one is so much better than the way the ones I have work. All the modern ones I looked at when shopping for some this year have a switch that can be set to AUTO or ON, which means if you want to turn it on during the off times, you have to switch it back to AUTO, and if you want to turn it off during the on times, you have to unplug it and lose track of the time or change the settings and then lose your settings. Although the newer ones I have do have the benefit of being able to program multiple on and off times per day.
Every time I watch your channel it makes me happy. Not only do you have an enjoyable and pacific presentation style, but it's fun to see such clever engineering behind so many commonplace devices
I always liked how these very old timers with mechanical switches had a bit of natural variance in their on/off times as they worked to overcome the force of toggling... A little deviation in the times can make for a more natural look than hard-timed perfection of newfangled digital timers. (Although now we have programmed-in randomness on some units I've seen, to make lights look more "human" which is also neat)
@pauljs75 I use the digital ones for that reason for stuff that's in use all year. The mechanical ones are better for seasonal use like Christmas lights imo though because they're quicker to set up, and if you leave a digital one unplugged for 11 months the backup battery will likely be dead by then
@DeviantOllam that's one solution!! Always wondered how they managed to do that!!
@James Hall really felt that, even with multiple of the same brand I never get it to be perfectly synced no matter how hard I try xD
Yet the digital ones are nice at dealing with power outages better, as the clock isn't getting its time reference from the electricity itself. It's no fun getting to that one outlet behind some heavy piece of furniture (where the timer is) so the lamps will turn on at the correct time, because you found all the appliance clocks blinking 12:00 when you get home.
I have some BNLink timers from Amazon and they have the little tabs that you push up/down.
When you push or pull one of the tabs at the current time, the tab also pushes the switch up and down (instead of the switch getting in the way like on older models). So the tabs don't interact with a rotary switch/knob, instead they pull a lever back and forth.
When the override switch is on, the lever moves out of the way so that the tabs can't influence it.
If you want to store the tabs and not mess up the timing, just put both « on » tabs next to each other and both « off » tabs next to each other. Since they won’t mess up the actual timing, you can just use the spaces between the first on/off switches as storage.
We've used these for years run block heaters on the big trucks and tractors (1600 watts). Just like the one you showed, but a more recent version. They work quite well, although after a few years they start having problems when it's -40 and sometimes stall or get really slow. I've also got one running a light (because the stupid LED won't work with the day-night sensor that is supposedly meant for LED). By the way the newer analog switchers you showed don't like -40 at all, especially the one with the 48 little tabs.
We have almost that exact third timer (with the depressible switches) and it is connected to a floor lamp that clicks on at 7:30 AM and wakes me up, and shuts itself off at 8:30 AM. In combination with a Fitbit and a silent alarm, mornings are much more pleasant now. Instant sunrise!
There are 96 of these "switches" on the DeLonghi Oil filled heater I have , each for every 15 minutes , and very , very tiny to pull or push each up or down... they took it to a whole new level!
Half of your videos I'm excited to learn how a thing works. The other half I'm like, "yeah, yeah, I bet I know how this works," but then not only do I still learn a whole bunch, but you make it entertaining. You rock :)
@Mütheimムツ広 März And the callbacks to previous episodes.
and the puns.........
A sign of a great teacher: they can teach you what you already know and still keep your interest.
The best ones are the ones where I'm like, "I have never stopped to think about how this works yet I understand it perfectly."
Now you need a follow up video on the heavy duty timers like used with electric water heaters and how they differ from the wall receptacle mechanical timers.
Really enjoy these deep dives into every day items. Your presentation is perfect
I have that exact timer with the removable tabs to control the light on one of my aquariums. On my other, I had a sliding-tab timer that was at least 30 years old, but I think it just wore out internally and stopped working, so I bought a power strip with a built-in timer, especially made for aquariums. It has four outlets that switch back and forth between on and off when the timer tells them. In other words, two are on, two are off at any given time, then when the timer says, they switch. The idea is that some people have blue lights on their aquariums at night.
I use a version of those timers that have a ring of many captive tabs. Popping up the tabs sets the schedule. You can set multiple schedules in roughly 30 minute increments.
Wonderful! Clock switches are the first steps into automation. I remember adapting one to control the millivolt circuit on a gas heater in an apartment I was renting. One of those through the wall vented heaters with no electrical connection. So it would turn on before I had to get out of bed in the morning...
I always enjoy your comedic timing. It runs until the moment just before it becomes tremendous cringe and then moves on. Dunno how that timing gets nailed down but I like it
...with a timing switch of course. How else?
Hahahaha when he says 69000 haha nice
I like it too. When I first started watching this channel it would turn me off. Perhaps it took a minute for Alec to hone his craft, but it sure is awesome now.
mechanical timers are great. I'd actually use them, if those motors wouldn't produce noise 24/7. So digital it is for me! (also I'm now somewhat hooked onto home automation - so now everything is digital for me, comes at double the price and I'm constantly switching batteries and wondering why nothing works. FUN!)
I bought a digital timer switch recently, actually a pair of them because they only came in pairs, and I found out that despite having 8 buttons on them, you can't set different times for different days, and you have to plug them in one day a month if you aren't using them to keep the internal battery alive, so now I have a spare timer plug in a random socket
Great info. How about a three part series on the evolution of the door stop and how unappreciated it is.
Really informative and technical review of a vintage timer! I appreciate your videos! Thankyou :)
I like the mention of the use for sign lighting. Having worked in the sign business most of my life, I can definitely say that photocells are not a great solution as they do not last long at all. Most people who want to go the route of photocells instead of timers do it just because it’s cheaper and doesn’t require access into the breaker panel. I will always try to pitch timers just because of their reliability
After rewatching the "holes in plugs" video just yesterday, I was not expected to find relief from my resulting frustration so soon and surprising.
I too find relief from my frustration by plugging holes
I was wondering if the retaining dimples are there because the plug is going to be inserted vertically, which is presumably fairly unusual? (Here in Britain our plug-in timers and similar in-line gadgets nearly always have the socket on the front face, because the cord exits the plug at right angles.)
In the Philippines I still saw these mechanical time switches being used for mainstream billboards across the city. At home I used the digital ones to turn off the fan warming the room temperature and helps me to wake up during work days.
Oh man, I love it when you do videos about things I also own. Two of the timers, the tab one and button one, I own and use a few of those.
I was literally doing the 'Pointing Rick Dalton' meme on this video. Love it!
Regardless of the topic, you always manage to make me smile at some point in your delivery.
Thank you, thank you. As always, your topics are concise with wit and charm that elevates beyond mere nuts & bolts. (story time) In the other millennium, we were young and broke. Had a bed roll instead of a bed and a radio instead of an alarm clock radio. What we did have was a... Timer Switch. Simply put when we heard music (6am), it was time to get up. This was also the entertainment center for guests when playing (high stakes) Monopoly.
I'm glad that you found receptacles that engage with the holes in the plugs! You and I both seem to have been suspicious about this for years (well, more years for me), so it's nice to find at least something that actually uses the holes.
I also noted that the holes are chamfered which I've never seen before. So not only are they using the holes but is enhanced to make even better contact.
Outdoor sockets on a LOT of things, from stakes for the yard lighting to extension cords and even a few "exterior grade" outlets had internal bits to interact with the holes on plugs. I think it also had to do with light vs medium vs heavy duty definitions as well. The idea was to exploit them so the plugs could be forcefully (albeit only lightly) retained against dropping on the ground and getting walked on or rolled over by vehicles and other equipment...
I can't recall seeing any since about the mid 90's... ;o)
All my grandfather's extension cords had locking sockets that used the holes on the plugs. They were old in the 80's, and I've never seen one since.
15:12 "Take two basic things, and smoosh it together, and you can make a pretty handy new third thing! Do it well enough, and you can even change the world." True words of wisdom.
I remember these timers. I remember my grandparents using these back in the 70’s to deter possible thieves. If they saw lights coming on and going off they would think someone was home.
Great topic, and great video, as always!
My family has been using these kinds of timers since the late 1960s, when my grandparents first found out about them. (Religious Jews don't turn electrical things on and off on sabbath and holidays, so we use these timers to make life on those days more convenient.) After doing a bit of research to identify the picture burned into my brain, I think my grandparents' first one was an Intermatic Time-All Model A-211, which had a power cord, stood upright on molded-in feet, looked something like a big alarm clock and had the override switch on the right side. That timer might've outlasted my grandparents.
My wife bought a timer exactly like your first one when she was in college in the mid 1980s. She still had it when we got married, and we used it (dare I say religiously? 🤣) for about 20 years, at which point it failed. I don't remember if one of the plastic parts of the switch broke off or the motor burned out, but whatever killed it, she definitely got her money's worth out of it.
At some point, I bought two timers exactly like your second. Each came with two sets of trippers, and I did exactly what you implied in the video, and when I needed one of the timers to turn a light on and off three times over a 24-hour period, I borrowed two trippers from the other timer. I also discovered, as you mentioned, that those trippers are ridiculously easy to lose, so at this point I think I have one timer with two sets of trippers on its dial and the other has two OFF triippers (but no ON trippers) on its dial. Oh, well...
I also have timers similar to, but not exactly like, your last two. In addition, I have one programmable in-wall timer that replaces a light switch. Acquiring that was something of a production. My first such timer was a relatively simple model that got its power from the household current. That was fine until CFL spiral bulbs that fit into most fixtures came out, and I quickly discovered that my wall timer was incompatible with those. Apparently, it depended on the filament resistance of incandescent bulbs in some way, and having even one CFL in my dining room chandelier caused all the bulbs to flicker and the timer to make funny noises. So, I had to stick with incandescent bulbs in that fixture until I discovered a wall timer that used a pair of AA batteries to run the clock and operate a mechanical switch to turn the lights on and off. That worked fine no matter what kind of bulbs I put in the light fixture. It was a bit annoying in that the switch made a curious sound when turned the lights on or off, which took some getting used to, and it went through several sets of batteries per year. It lasted for about 10 years, after which the plastic hook that held the battery compartment in broke, and I had to replace it. The updated model offers relatively complex programming, auto daylight savings time adjustment (obsolete since the last DST rules change), switching the lights at dawn and dusk, and a lot of other features. It uses some sort of camera battery instead of AAs, but it also uses a more efficient electronic switch instead of a mechanical one, so each battery lasts several years.
@Jim Baird, funny you should ask that. My brothers and at least one of my sisters use sabbath mode on their ovens at least once every week. I use it on mine occasionally, but my wife has to ask me to turn it on for her, because she has never successfully done so. Sabbath mode, which is actually something of a misnomer, does two things. First, it enables the oven to stay on longer than 12 hours, give or take. Second - and this is why it's a bit of a misnomer - is that it provides a means for changing the temperature of the oven on Jewish holidays (but NOT on the sabbath) within the confines of Jewish law.
I have to ask: do you (or your grandparetns) use the sabbath mode on your oven? I actually mistakenly discovered this on the oven in my last house when I hit some combination of the buttons and it suddenly showed "sbt" or some such on the display and I had to go dig the instruction manual out of the basement to figure out what happened and how to cancel it...
We use the newest tab version for our pet vaporizers. They turn on around feeding time, and at midnight/noon for some extra in-between calming spray in the air. They're super nifty.
Another good video, Alec. First, back in the ‘70s, my family stayed at a friend’s cottage and they had the first timer you showed. And I thought they were really neat and modern. I was 10. Anyway, Second, I also noted when you opened that one up there was the CSA logo (Canadian Standards Association) on the motor housing so I presume this unit was sold in Canada. Eh.
A bigger cousin to these would be older mechanical traffic controllers. They have a timer that rotates continuously and has tabs set at various places to adjust the percentage of time for a given indication. The actual sequence of lights is controlled by the cam, which is stepped each time a timer tab trips the switch. Thus with two systems, the timer and the cam, you have a unit that can control in what order the lights go and for how long each step is. Acme School has an episode on them, but it would be neat to see you do your take on them as well since you have the traffic modules in the back wall display.
Damn, quick, someone ship him one of those 4 ft high, 300 lb traffic light controllers.
That's remarkably similar to the timers that sirens would use for noon/curfew blasts. A clock that would momentarily close a contact at a certain time or times, and a timer that used cams and microswitches for the signal timing and duration, and possibly controlling a coding damper if the siren had one.
Electromechanical traffic controllers could be synchronized as long as they were on the same distribution circuit. Traffic Engineers used to synchronize lights by pulling and plugging fuses. It doesn't work between circuits because there is enough inherent variance between distribution transformers to allow the timing to drift.
I hope he'll do a video on those. They're wonderfully complex, especially since they have a lot of safety mechanisms to prevent things like an all-green situation.
Truly enjoyable video. I have had and used all of these types of timers. I still have several of the type with the push / pull tabs. And recently picked up a digital version for Christmas lights, and it is for me the most difficult to program. I have several tansformers with the pin type timers built in for out door lighting. Over the years the timers seem to go bad, so I would by a new transformer for $60 - $80. Then the idea struck me to just run the transformer thru the timer.
I have the digital version of it (no need for gearing to wear out), which turns on and off, outside LED rope light I installed on my balcony. It's quite handy instead of letting it stay on during the day or manually un/plugging it. It's also due to the area lighting sometimes going out during a brownout.
the big brother of this is the sangamo weston street light timer and outdoor lighting timer, its excetionally well made and the on/off tabs are moved mechanically by some extra curved metal pieces to account for seasonal variation in dawn/dusk. Thinking of carparks they even added a little wheel to exclude days of the week. Everything in it is mechanical and basic but btilliant. its been updated over the years but i like the 70s versions the best
I just bought my first house, a 1952 bungalow. I wish I could have you just be a consultant on my renovations. Your videos have been an invaluable asset!
ive previously used a timer like the last mechanical one you showed, and ive found that they tend to drift quite a bit almost an hour in just a few months for the two ive ever used
I have had that second white one my entire life and since it’s the only one I’ve ever needed I thought it was the pinnacle of outlet timer technology. The digital one blew my mind!😂
@Rena Kunisaki Built out of a Sharp SM590, for the record.
I'd probably use a TMS1000, both for it's historical pedigree as first of the MCU product class and also because I'm a bit of a classic TI fanboy(from back when they actually made things).
@CptJistuce true but they were quickly superseded by more practical 8bit ones so not sure if 4bit were still that relevant when electronics gets affordable enough to get consumer grade devices. Pretty sure the entry level were 4bit though, as companies like to make engineering-challenging penny saving cuts.
You should check out the original Nintendo CIC for a really obscure, cheap processor. It's so cheap, the PC isn't even linear because that saved a couple circuits.
@Vierax Or even a 4-bit processor! (They existed, and weren't evel particularly uncommon.)
yeah, I heard they are very phosisticated
what a cosmic coincidence - I have a switch of this latest mechanical variety (hooked up for Christmas lighting and not yet bothered to take it down) and since it makes a silent buzz that I can hear seating on the toilet I had "a moment" bout 2 days ago (just the time this video come out) to think about how it's made and what is shown in the video is exactly what I came up with :D
Thanks for the video! Been using these things for 4 decades but now I use plugs that work with Google assistant. Still really cool to see how they work.
Complex enough to be interesting but just simple enough (with your explanation) for me to comprehend. Beautifully presented!
We got one of these for our apartment block's lights. I change it every couple months so that it keeps up with sunrise and sunset times. The pins are completely removable, And by far the most annoying part is bumping the one-way mechanism so you have to go allllll the way around to make the time accurate again.
Hey there! Thanks for the videos; love your choice of topics and the deep dives you take. I use one of these timers for my Christmas lights. It's a little different from the ones you showed. It has forty-eight fixed tabs that can be set individually in half-hour increments. That allows the device to be turned off and on at different times and intervals throughout the day. I'm not quite sure why you'd want that level of control, but it just goes to show that there is no limit to human ingenuity. Thanks again and keep up the great work! It is truly appreciated.
The ones with the individual pins that pull out are handy to use with an iron that doesn't have an auto-off switch. When using your iron, just plug it into a timer that only has Off pins set. Set the Off pin for the maximum time you'll be using the iron. If you forget to unplug the iron or turn it off, you have a safety backup.
Oh yeah, my dad did this with the slow cooker and possibly coffee machine. (They definitely have an electronic slow cooker now, not sure if their coffee machine has a clock yet.)
@ss l If your time is worth anything you dont iron your cloth (exaption for suits)
@Marcia Oh You just need the auto-off to be a longer time.
@Rich Bennett They do make them. I have one. I hate it. If I plug it in to heat it up, and get distracted away from it, it turns off. Then when I'm ready to use it, it's cold and I have to turn it on again and wait for it to heat up again... Making me late.
BTW this, what I have, is not "a timer" to set an exact time but just an auto-off built into it, but the annoyance would be the same with a timer. My iron does the same thing: If I walk away to hang clothes and it takes a while to reorganize stuff when I get back to the iron it's off and not hot enough to iron with.
I am baffled that modern hair appliances don't have built-in auto-off technology. About once every other week my wife leaves her flat iron on. It's not gonna burn anything down, but it is starting to turn the white countertop a brownish hue.
I love the mechanical ones as they’re so much more intuitive to set up compared to the electronic ones
I used one of those devices for years as a young kid! Granted it was only during winter and was hooked up to a small space heater but it was great to wake up to a nice warm room so I wouldn't immediately freeze upon getting out of bed.
Are smart timers going to be the next video? You covered everything but those here. great video, have a few of them around and wondered how they worked.
We have one of these (or rather a clone) controlling our bathroom floor heating, I've always wondered how they work. Great video!
Oh, hey I made a comment regarding this on the Connextra sights and sounds video for the Statesman. I'm just glad that this was covered since it felt like the topics were heading this way in regards to electromechanical items. This also answers my musing about what manner of system it uses regarding time keeping (how it uses the frequency of the electricity to keep track of the time in conjunction with some gear reduction). Anyway, that last unit was really, really similar to the selection wheel on the Statesman and kind of awesome that something so different in use has a similar structure at its core.
I hope you do a video on electronic pocket dictionaries and spell checkers one day, those were so neat. Love your channel!
Those spell checkers were handy back in the day. We used a Franklin Spelling Ace. Our earliest word processing software didn't have a spell check built into it.
I had one credit card sized and one calculator sized .. one could even play hangman on these :)
Gotta say, I agree with you on the pleasing simplicity of a timer that just is clock-switch and nothing else.
The clicky down type timers are still routinely used here (UK) on boilers (gas furnace) to set the on and off times for your heating. Coupled with a thermostat that will turn it off and on too.
Those removable tab ones actually had a feature lost in the newer up-down timer where you could have multiple on or off...say if you turn the light back on manually it could turn off a second time later. That is why I now prefer digital timers (or smart plugs). Also digital ones have less power consumption.
I've always loved these things. My parents used them to make sure the house growing up was always lit when we were coming home from dinner or what have you.
For the models with tabs, they'd just add place all of the like tabs together if they didn't need more than one program. Only the first tab would have an effect, and then the replacements were right there on the face of the dial if you needed them.
My ancient gas boiler still runs on one of these timers ... I have to put up with two seta of on/off tabs though. I'm in the UK btw and renting so I can't change it :) Thanks for making this video, great as always!
I worked with a variant of those devices at a hotel: it was an alarm clock with slidable tabs all around the dial at fifteen minute intervals. We used it to make manual wake-up calls to rooms. Each tab set would make it buzz until we hit a switch to silence it, then we would look at a list to see which rooms to call. Four-star service, baby!
Those built-in-tiny-tab designs used to be pretty common on household boilers in the UK. I've lived in flats with them, and they were a very handy way to pre-set having your heating come on in the winter. Much better than my current system, wherein my boiler reads the programme from a thermostat across the flat from it -- but sometimes decides to connect to my neighbour's thermostat instead, and heat to their programme instead of mine.
Meanwhile, I'm still enjoying a plug-in mechanical-tab timer switch in Scottish winters, which I have plugged into a SAD lamp so that it turns on before my alarm in the mornings, so I don't have to get up in the dark.
I've got a mechanical timer on my boiler which controls when the central heating goes on and off
It's like little slider things that pivot so the inside is off and the outside is on. It's got a slider for always on and always off as well
Super handy once you find a copy of the manual on the internet to find out what each position of each thing does what!
thank you for all you do. i had one of those timers that had an option to change the on and off times daily randomly. have not seen one since the 1990's
When I had a car with a block heater, I had one of these set up to start the heater some time before I needed to leave. Helped immensely when it was -30 Freedom units out one morning.