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Where Does the Time Come From? #132111
03/19/05 04:07 PM
03/19/05 04:07 PM
iwire  Offline OP
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,391
North Attleboro, MA USA
[Linked Image]

As I was sitting at my desk not writing the checks I should be, I was staring at my $2.00 battery powered LCD clock counting out the seconds and a thought crossed my mind.

How does this cheaply made device 'know' how long 1 second is? [Linked Image]

Grandfather clocks have pendulums, some watches have quartz timing, the clock on the wall may be controlled by the AC cycles.

But what is it in a silicon chip that can tell time?


Bob Badger
Construction & Maintenance Electrician
Tools for Electricians:
Re: Where Does the Time Come From? #132112
03/19/05 10:24 PM
03/19/05 10:24 PM
gfretwell  Offline

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,166
Digital watches use a quartz oscillator. A small rock that has a characteristc frequency it vibrates at and they use "divide by" circuitry to count the oscillations down to one second. A desk clock is just a watch with a bigger display

[This message has been edited by gfretwell (edited 03-19-2005).]

Greg Fretwell
Re: Where Does the Time Come From? #132113
03/28/05 02:57 AM
03/28/05 02:57 AM
Trumpy  Offline

Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,231
SI,New Zealand
Good call Greg,
A clock uses a 38kHz crystal to provide the synchronisation.
The actual crystals themselves are what we would call Rochelle salts, they oscillate at a given frequency when applied with a bias voltage.
One thing I'm short of knowledge on, is how the oscillating frequency is set.
Is it the size, type of crystal, like the size of a capacitor plate vs dielectric?. [Linked Image]

Re: Where Does the Time Come From? #132114
04/02/05 03:09 AM
04/02/05 03:09 AM
Big Jim  Offline
Joined: Jul 2003
Posts: 394
Denver, CO USA
I believe the frequency is determined by the physical size of the crystals. When I was in two-way, we would order crystals "cut" to a specific frequency.

Re: Where Does the Time Come From? #132115
04/02/05 07:42 AM
04/02/05 07:42 AM
Ron  Offline
Joined: Mar 2002
Posts: 582
White Plains, NY
A battery model has either a crystal oscillator as mentioned, or an integrated circuit that generates a timing signal (such as a digital 555 timer operating in an astable mode).
An a/c powered clock uses a synchronous motor.

Re: Where Does the Time Come From? #132116
04/02/05 10:55 AM
04/02/05 10:55 AM
gfretwell  Offline

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,166
555s may be OK for something like a microwave timer but they drift too much for a decent clock. I am using one as a spa timer (along with a 14 bit counter) but that is not too critical.

Greg Fretwell
Re: Where Does the Time Come From? #132117
04/03/05 04:03 PM
04/03/05 04:03 PM
Scott35  Offline

Broom Pusher and
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 2,708
Anaheim, CA. USA
Is there a way to stablize a 555, to be used as a "Tolerable Clock"? - like within 1% tolerance?

I have built a 555 based flasher (drives a 20mA LED), which is in close proximity of a "Kit-Bashed" AC powered Clock (Kit-Bashed being a normal alarm clock w/ digital LED segmented display, removed from original enclosure and placed inside an O-27 scale Caboose).

The normal "½ Second Flashing" of the "Colon" is directed to a Railroad Crossing Crossbuck - which controls alternating flashing LEDs via op-amp.

The 555 based flasher pulse cadence is at least 3x faster, yet does not keep a predictable sync. with the crossbuck.

Just curious if anyone has info.


Scott " 35 " Thompson
Just Say NO To Green Eggs And Ham!
Re: Where Does the Time Come From? #132118
04/06/05 04:01 PM
04/06/05 04:01 PM
njelectricmaster  Offline
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 109
Lead, South Dakota
so what do you do if the clock on your computer gains 3 min. every day?

Jon Niemeyer
Re: Where Does the Time Come From? #132119
04/07/05 12:21 AM
04/07/05 12:21 AM
gfretwell  Offline

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,166
Replace the system board. Not an attractive option but the TOD clock is soldered on the board.

There is a chance this could be fixed with a BIOS flash but that would only be if lots of people have the same problem and it is some strange microcode problem. Check the manufacturer's web site. They will have the latest BIOS update (if any)

[This message has been edited by gfretwell (edited 04-07-2005).]

Greg Fretwell
Re: Where Does the Time Come From? #132120
04/10/05 08:56 PM
04/10/05 08:56 PM
NJwirenut  Offline
Joined: Sep 2001
Posts: 806
Bergen County, NJ
A few older motherboards had a trimmer capacitor to tweak the RTC oscillator frequency. You can either do it using a frequency counter (recommended), or turn it a bit at a time, and see if the clock gains or loses time. The usual oscillator frequency is 32.768 KHz.

If you have decent soldering skills , you could try replacing the RTC chip (may be socketed!) or oscillator crystal (if not integrated into the RTC).

A software workaround if you are running Windoze XP is to go into the time settings and enable automatic synchronization, and set it to do so every hour or 2, so the time drift becomes less noticeable.

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