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Before the Alarm Clock: 5 Ancient Techniques


Before people became dependent on alarm clocks, or the ‘alarm clock’ app on phones, there were various interesting ways with the help of which they woke up – and no, we’re not talking about the very famous early-morning rooster calls.


1)      Pinned Candles

Candles were used to measure time and then people got the idea of taking it one step further to make it work as an alarm. The time intervals were marked on the side of the candle where people could insert nails according to their desired sleeping duration. And when it was lit, the wax slowly melted away, reaching the pins that then dropped onto the metal plate under the candle, making it a loud sound.


2)      Clepsydra

Time was measured with the help of flowing water, and again intervals were marked which represented different time durations. And when the intended mark was reached by the water filling the container, a floating bob struck an alarm. Later several gears were added to make alarm work more accurately, and so was a catapult that launched a metal pellet onto a metal plate to make an even louder sound.


3)      Bladder Control

Since there were many people in the household, including children and elderly that the adults didn’t want to wake up, a lot of them started to use bladder control as a form of an alarm clock. They estimated how much water would let them sleep for the desired time duration until they were forced to wake up. Nobody else were disturbed as there was no sound. The earlier they wanted to wake up, the more water they drank!


4)      Factory Whistle

During the Industrial Age, many people lived near the factory where they worked, and each and every loud factory whistle was hard to miss. The whistles were steam-powered and was a call out to the factory workers to get up, get ready, and get back to work, which was a common reason why employees lived nearby in the first place.


5)      Knocker Uppers

There was actually a part-time job for early risers to be personal human alarms who helped their clients wake up in the morning - they were called knocker uppers. Not everyone could live near their workplace and so they, or the factory, hired others to help the employees get to work in time. Most knocker ups would use a long stick to tap on the window of the customer until they were awake, while some were creative to use rubber tubes to shoot peas at windows on higher floors.





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