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Atomic Clocks and Radio Controlled Atomic Clocks

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Posted November 15, 2012

Just yesterday, in one our our grandfather clock retail locations, we had a customer come in and ask to purchase an Atomic Grandfather Clock. We still believe there is a market for atomic grandfather clocks, likely with additional functionality built in, which can be a hot and trendy item in future years. As many of our readers know, atomic time is synonymous with radio controlled time. Atomic clocks pick up a signal from the US Government’s Atomic Clock in Fort Collins, Colorado, run by the US Government Agency NIST, or National Institute of Standards and Technology. Atomic time, both with Atomic Clocks and Atomic watches and wristwatches that pick up the radio controlled atomic time signal are accurately, theoretically at least, to one-billionth of a second. The accuracy is truly mind-boggling. The main atomic clock run by the USA Government in Colorado also transmits the day and date to clocks and watches, mostly wristwatches, that are equipped with atomic time receptors.

Most popular are atomic wall clocks used by many industries and organizations because of their incredible precision. Hospitals and Universities are also avid users of atomic wall clocks. As one Fortune 500 company Human Resources executive who was placing a large order for atomic wall clocks with us said, think of the productivity enhancements we will gain from eliminating the discussions about whether it really is quitting time, e.g. 5pm, or lunch time has really started or not. The HR Corporate Vice President felt that the clocks would pay for themselves in increased productivity within 1 month, which is one of the better returns on investment then most anyone can make.

Some of the major manufacturers of Atomic Clocks include Howard Miller Clocks and LaCrosse Clocks. 1-800-4CLOCKS has been working on introducing its own brands of atomic clocks, watches and other timepieces, including those with large LED displays. Historically, Seth Thomas Atomic Clocks, made by Seth Thomas Clocks, have been very popular, but the company is not currently open for business and has not manufactured any of their well-known Seth Thomas Howard Atomic Clocks for several years. Fortunately, other makers of atomic clocks have filled the void with very similar looking clocks with the same functionality, so customers seeking to keep the same interior design and look and feel between offices or classrooms or labs can use these other clocks without anyone reasonably noticing anything but perhaps the most minor differences in overall look and feel.

The US Atomic Clock is known more formally as the NIST-F1 Cesium Fountain Atomic Clock. It is used by the US Government as the primary time and frequency standard for all of the United States. The signal reaches into most all of Canada as well.

The US Government’s NIST website explains the clock as follows, in reasonable layman terms:

NIST-F1 is referred to as a fountain clock because it uses a fountain-like movement of atoms to measure frequency and time interval. First, a gas of cesium atoms is introduced into the clock’s vacuum chamber. Six infrared laser beams then are directed at right angles to each other at the center of the chamber. The lasers gently push the cesium atoms together into a ball. In the process of creating this ball, the lasers slow down the movement of the atoms and cool them to temperatures near absolute zero.

Two vertical lasers are used to gently toss the ball upward (the “fountain” action), and then all of the lasers are turned off. This little push is just enough to loft the ball about a meter high through a microwave-filled cavity. Under the influence of gravity, the ball then falls back down through the microwave cavity.

There are certain limitations to using atomic clocks in organizations. The current signal can have difficulty in being picked up inside certain structures with thick concrete or steel walls. General much older construction. Also users need to understand how and when a wall clock might pick up the atomic time signal.

The Atomic Clocks or Radio Controlled Clocks are available both as analog clocks and digital clocks. Additional functionality on some of these wall clocks can include date and day of week, and even indoor and outdoor temperature. We at 1-800-4CLOCKS are also looking at introducing our old atomic time world zone time clock, for which we think there could be a real interest and demand.

NIST National Institute for Science and Technology

NIST National Institute for Science and Technology Runs USA Atomic Clock

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As Of: 04/21/2024