Article on Frick Electric Program Clock
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March 19, 1895, Fred Frick of Waynesborough, Pennsylvania, was
issued one of two patents by the United
States Patent Office for his Electric Program Clock. His
invention was not just a way to keep time. His clock provided an
improved method to allow schools, colleges, businesses and
factories to ring bells or sound signals so that those inside
and outside the buildings would know that a certain time in
their day was beginning or ending. In a factory the bells might
signal the beginning of a work shift while in a school the bell
might let students know a class was beginning. Why do you think
this was important?
Frick's Electric Program Clock improved on the signaling by
making it happen automatically at a given time or interval which
could be set by the user. The signals (or bells) could be set
for different times on different days or turned off for periods
of time. Programs were created to
control the pattern of the way and times when the signals were
heard. A different pattern of bells could be rung in different
rooms or buildings depending of the user's needs. In his patent
application Frick stated that the objective of his invention was
to produce an "efficient mechanism by means of which
certain predetermined signals can be automatically brought into
and out of action at certain predetermined times." The
Electric Program clock consisted of an eight day clock, a
program disk, a switch mechanism, a spring motor to turn the
program disk and a clock case. There were two grades of program
clocks. Grade 1 was the more expensive and it came in a Multa-Program
version (Class A) and an
Automatic Calendar Switch (Class B)
program was set or adjusted through the program disk. The program
disk was a circular metal disc which was capable of opening
and closing electrical circuits. Contact arms or springs were
placed to project from the disk. The ends of the contact arms
were bent so that they would make contact with a series of pins.
When contact between the pin and contact arm was made, the
electric circuit was closed or completed and the bell would
sound. Pins could be inserted into the perforations of the
program disk so that the signals could sound every 5 minutes or
at whatever interval was desired in 5 minute or two and one-half
minute intervals. Today when we hear the term program disk we
think of computer program disks. The meaning of the term has
changed since Frick's time and in many ways the program disks of
today are very different from the Frick program disk. But, even
though the process may be quite different it could be said that
both perform tasks to control the ways things worked.
program disk made a complete revolution in 12 hours. At the end
of each 12 hour period the toothed wheel would move 1 tooth.
There were 14 teeth on the wheel. This meant it would take a
full week - 7 days and 7 nights - to complete the full program
which was set for the clock. This is how bells could be
programmed to be turned off during the night and on the weekends
program disk had a front face with the numbers 1 to 12 on it so
that it looked much like a clock dial. The outer part of the
program disk was thicker and had a series of grooves and
perforations in which the contact pins could be placed. The
arrangement of the pins placed in the disk perforations
determined the program or when the bells would be sounded.
order to protect his new idea, Frick applied for a patent.
Since he was interested in protecting the way his invention was
used and how it operated he needed to apply for an utility
patent rather than a design patent.
He submitted a series of drawings and
a detailed description to the United States Patent Office. He
was granted two patent awards for his Electric Program Clock.
Frederick Frick's received other recognition for his Electric
Program Clock. One of these awards was the Edward Longstreth
Medal of Merit from The Franklin Institute's Committee on
Science and the Arts in 1899. An ABSTRACT about
the clock was published in the Journal of The Franklin Institute
in August of 1899.
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