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back to article Smartwatch craze is all just ONE OFF THE WRIST

Douglas Adams’ classic 1970s sci-fi satire described the Earth’s population as “so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea”. And here we are again, on the cusp - as in ‘hey, boys, check out my cusp’ or ‘ouch I fell on my cusp’ - of a new outbreak of idiocy that regards digital …

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I like the elegant retro look of the Sinclair watch. Much better than the japanese addiction for every button to have 15 functions & a label for each one.

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Anonymous Coward

LED calculators are much nicer to use too. They just needed a DC adaptor though as they didn't last long on a battery.

If anything the smartphones of today mimic the problems of LED portables, the screen has to be off all the time and you need to keep prodding the device to see what is on the screen.

What we need is a hybrid display with a low power always on screen for simple status display and a normal OLED/LCD for the usual display.

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The problem with LED watches was the power consumption was horrific so you had to push a button to tell the time and even then the power consumption was still horrific. Batteries might last a month making them a horrible proposition.

Things turn full circle with smart watches with equally horrific battery lives. At least they're rechargable but hardly convenient to use.

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MJI
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Sounds like the Nokia N8

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Re: What we need is a hybrid display

Something like this?

http://www.digitalversus.com/mobile-phone/mwv-2103-yota-phone-two-faced-russian-smartphone-n28492.html

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Re: What we need is a hybrid display

Maybe more like this:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/09/05/qualcomm_reveals_toq_smartwatch/

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Joke

Lol, I hate cheapskate design when it comes to button provision. My bluetooth headset has a single button that does everything except volume and track forward/backward. I swear it has a dozen functions all depending on how often you press it or for how long.

The manual refers to it as the MFB which I can only assume stands for Mother F*!*ing Button.

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Sinclair black watch

There's one on ebay chief. Either may or may not work, currently at 65 quid.

There may or may not be more, I can't be arsed to do more research.

I'll not be investing. But I do think it's kind of cool, that may be the sinclair 'geek chic' thing it has going for it. Taken to the extreme, you could strap a zx81 to your wrist...

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"LED calculators are much nicer to use too."

I think the nicest pre-LCD pocket calculator displays were the green ones on Casio calculators (mine was the classic FX39), but these were actually vacuum fluorescent displays rather than LEDs. Much clearer than the tiny red LEDs under bubble magnifiers that TI calculators used at the time.

VFDs need a relatively high voltage (somewhere in the region of 20-50V) so sometimes you could hear the DC-DC converter whistling.

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and if you held them near the ferrite rod at the back of an AM radio you could hear tones? Or am I confusing that with something else?

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Re: ...the power consumption was horrific ...

Maybe the first ones. My experience was quite different. Batteries tended to last at least a year. Granted at that point it was a PITA because I needed a jeweler to change it, but the battery life itself was quite good.

Of course, now that I almost always have a cell phone on me I've stopped wearing a watch.

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I remember a Mary Whitehouse Experience sketch from the radio lampooning the exam experience which mentioned the cacophony of hourly beeps on the hour...

The rest of that sketch was hilarious and had me choking quietly in the corner as I was listening on headphones trying not to burst out laughing. It seems to be available on MP3 here, will have to have a download later...

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Happy

I remember watches

Pretty much stopped wearing a watch with the advent of the mobile phone - after all even the most basic 90's phone had a clock on the display. Failing that there was always the windows clock or even, dare i say it echo %time%.

One benefit is the hair on my wrist regrew.

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Re: I remember watches

That said, there are places where external sources of time are unavailable. Casinos, for example, never show clocks on the floor because they WANT you to lose track of time. That and the big room might mean you lose your signal, so the phone won't help, and laptops would smack of cheating, so when all else fails, it falls back to a cheap quartz wristwatch.

Also handy for when you're out in the sticks, away from civilization and a cell phone signal. The wristwatch can keep chugging on its own for a couple years on a button battery or two. Don't know about anything else.

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Meh

Re: I remember watches

yes, the inexorably, miserable backwards march of progress. My ancient analogue watch is self winding, glows a bit in the dark and works 30+ meters under sea surface. Get it serviced every 5 years and it just works. Unlike any mobile phone.

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Re: I remember watches

...because phones stop telling the time when they are out of reach of a signal? Surely just plug it in each night and it will show the time signal or no signal, with a lot of other functions still working too if its a smartphone...

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Re: I remember watches - @Denarius

Your point was? I've got a modern digital/analog hybrid that is powered by sunlight, glows in the dark, is waterproof to 100 meters and resets its self from the European radio atomic time base overnight. It's over 5 years old and has never needed servicing.

People get what they are prepared to pay for, not what technology is able to provide.

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Re: I remember watches

"Failing that there was always the windows clock or even, dare i say it echo %time%."

Back in my MS-DOS days, my AUTOEXEC.BAT file used to contain the line 'prompt $t $p$g' so I was never more than a carriage-return away from the time.

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Re: I remember watches

"even the most basic 90's phone had a clock on the display."

My first phone was a Siemens C25. The only way to check the time on that little beastie was to send a text message to yourself.

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Re: I remember watches ( Charles 9)

"the big room might mean you lose your signal, so the phone won't help"

What piece of shit phone do you own that won't work at all unless it has a signal? Every phone I have ever owned since the late 90s has shown the time whether it could get a signal or not. Some of the earlier ones wouldn't do much without a SIM but these days you can do everything except make calls.

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Re: I remember watches ( Charles 9)

>What piece of shit phone do you own that won't work at all unless it has a signal?

I can't answer that. However, I don't like the fact that most Android phones can't wake themselves up for the alarm clock (so if you are low on batteries and have to wake up at certain hour the next morning you have to use Airplane mode and cross your fingers), something all my previous dumb- and feature-phones could do.

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Re: I remember watches

I remember the best thing about my c1980 digital watch was the stopwatch feature...

and the competitions with school mates about who could press the start-stop button the fastest to get the lowest elapsed time to show.

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Re: I remember watches

My weird memory of digital watches relates to the digital watch my grandmother had back in the 70s. Sure it was digital, in that it told the time with numbers and not hands, but it had no battery, nor a solar panel.

No, it was wind-up, and had the numbers written on little discks, like the ones that show the date on an "analogue" watch, and not a single quartz crystal in it.

"and the competitions with school mates about who could press the start-stop button the fastest to get the lowest elapsed time to show."

Yes, we did that, too, and the version where you competed to get as close as possible to exactly one second.

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Re: I remember watches @Omgwtfbbqtime

"Pretty much stopped wearing a watch with the advent of the mobile phone -"

I'm in the other camp - you will pry my watch from my cold, dead ... errr, wrist. I feel naked without one, and, given the option of the alarm clock, mobile, and watch on the bedside table, if I want to check the time in the middle of the night, it will be the watch I reach for.

However, I don't see me getting one of these smart-watch thingies. As others have said, I like having something that does a job for many months/years (depending on which watch) without having to worry about the battery going flat at an inconvenient time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I remember watches

I think I might swap my Seamaster for one....

If I lose my mind.....

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Meh

Re: I remember watches

I looked at Analogue watches, however the low maintenance ones I'd prefer are really not that good compared to well designed Digital watches in the same price range i.e. not the very dated ideas and the decades old design on display in this tragically tired, gadget fashion tarts speel.

My Casio ProTrek PRW-2000 manages itself even better than an analogue watch, I has an international radio time signal receivers (so you never need to set the time and date), has a solar panel bezel, back light, lots of environmental sensors, can go 100m deep in water or 10bar, has a tough housing (I've bumped mine plenty!), and has no moving parts apart from the buttons, so will probably never need servicing. I bought it a year ago after many years without a watch (or mobile) because my bike speedo ditched itself, so I researched watches (via Fibre Broadband), and deliberately went for functionality and style, in a low profile watch. Oh, and the hour chime can be switched on and off, but I like it on, and all 5 alarms set ;-P

LED watches use excessive power and are ugly, especially the brain dead unusable binary ones, the cheap LCD ones often look cheap and tacky, with poor readability, and the G-Shock ones are chunky over-kill, often with poor readability too.

I think the 2005 feature film of Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy, was spot on about mobile phones, they are ridiculous and getting so stupidly large (6" now WTF!) that you really do need a shiny, obese, unstylish 'smart' 'watch', and bluetooth headsets, to make them usable. Oh and you zap your cells with pulsed microwaves, often millimetres away from skin, and even close to genitles and mammaries (cancer); not smart phones at all! If you need a tablet, buy a tablet, not an overkill 'smart' phone.

I think that hand-held phones will be revealed as the last unimaginatively gasp of the old bone like land line phone design, and that a better device will arise which is less dangerous, and more useful; it would be foolish to speculate what this technology will be. Watches will probably continue to exist, because they do what is required in a time proven form factor.

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Re: I remember watches

Precisely.

And if I am so far away from 'civilisation*' for so long that even the clock on my Kindle packs up then, perhaps, I am where I don't ever need to tell the time and I just need a stick in the ground to tell me what season it is.

* civilisation being wrongly defined as where one has to lock one car's door at night.because of one's civilised* neighbours.

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Re: I remember watches

I still wear a watch for conditions that don't allow the usage of a touch screen smartphone. Any kind of nature activity that can get your hands dirty-sandy-bloody (e.g. fishing). Flipping the wrist is also quite handy while reeling out a big mofo fish ... and that watch is 100% mechanical, self winding, no batteries needed, ever. Maybe some lubrication in the distant future.

I think the smart watches are dead on arrival, the generation that is around 20-30 and one of the most eager spenders don't really see a use for it. As said by multiple other comments, smartphones and computers take away the need for a separate clock in a city/office environment.

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Re: I remember watches - @Denarius

Your point was? I've got a modern digital/analog hybrid that is powered by sunlight, glows in the dark, is waterproof to 100 meters and resets its self from the European radio atomic time base overnight. It's over 5 years old and has never needed servicing.

People get what they are prepared to pay for, not what technology is able to provide.

Actually that sounds like a fairly cheap casio, whereas a very expensive rolex may only tell the time and nothing else. Price has nothing to do with features.

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Re: I remember watches - @Denarius

Depends (broadly) on whether you're talking electronics, or new antiques. Rolexes, and the whole of the expensive "classical" mechanical watch industry, are retailing new antiques.

The classic watch "user interface" is good, and auto-winding so they never stop (if worn occasionally) is also good. Electronically, you can have the same with a Citizen eco-drive (light-powered), and better timekeeping, and a longer keepalive-time while stored in a dark drawer.

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Re: I remember watches @Omgwtfbbqtime

Me? I don't take my watch off, even in the bath.

Only time it comes off is to replace the battery, and so as not to scratch the wife when, um...

Oh, you know what I mean.

Not sure which of those two events happens more frequently nowadays!

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Re: I remember watches

they are called jumphour watches. you get the old ones on ebay (I have one from 1971) and you get reproductions. I still think they look cool.

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Re: I remember watches

yup, you cannae beat a protrek.

Mine is 10 years old - original battery (solar recharging on a transparent cell ontop of the multi level screen.

Titanium, bullet proof.

I use it for flying and walking (alti), diving (just time), compass (flying).

I have a £3500 titanium breitling too, but I find 9 days out of 10 I chose the casio to wear.

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The big thing about digital watches

was that they were MUCH more accurate than the mechanical devices of the time. You'd be lucky (or rich) if your mechanical watch kept time to better than a minute per day. They were crap to read and quartz analog, when it became available, ousted digital models but they did only need resetting weekly or monthly to stay on time. With modern watches able to keep time to better than 5 seconds/month and able to reset themselves from radio time signals or the Internet people forget about the ritual of listening for the BBC radio time pips to set their watches.

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Re: The big thing about digital watches

I bought a cheapo digital watch once - it strayed by 15 minutes/day.

The opposite of useful!

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Re: The big thing about digital watches

>the ritual of listening for the BBC radio time pips to set their watches.

And that's ANOTHER thing that is wrong with DAB! It's a few seconds out!

/end shout

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Re: The big thing about digital watches - @Cliff

I think that says rather more about how cheap the watch was. Even cheap quartz crystals are easily accurate to 50ppm (parts per million), or about 4.5 seconds per day. A Swiss quartz, to be certified as a chronograph, needs to get down to a little over 2 seconds per month.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The big thing about digital watches

"And that's ANOTHER thing that is wrong with DAB! It's a few seconds out!"

..better yet, it differs between different receivers, depending on how much they buffer as part of the process...

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Hourly chime

Although I haven't worn a digital watch for 20 years, I still have the muscle memory for how to switch off the hourly chime on a Casio.

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Pint

Beautiful

"Nor do I personally feel a desire to be wearing ... a pedometer - a thoroughly pedestrian idea if ever there was one."

I haven't laughed this much at an article on El Reg for a long time.

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Re: Beautiful

That's nice considering I thought it was the worst gag I've tried for months.

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Re: Beautiful

Agreed. With no BOFH today, Alistair's article was a good fill-in with some worthy chuckles.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Beautiful

and here's the pedometer: http://www.kaboodle.com/reviews/pedobear-square-metal-watch

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Whoever invented the hourly chime ought to have been put to death

You may be a little late: the repeating watch mechanism was claimed by both Barlow and Quare in the late 1600s...

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Anonymous Coward

I'm pretty sure Apple won't release a watch. It was probably a bit of rumour tactics to get Samsung and others to produce such rubbish. It must be fun to be Apple, laughing at the other companies taking the bait.

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Oh? And suppose the smartwatch takes off as a companion to the smartphone, Samsung and the like cash in, and Apple find themselves late to the train? Remember, they're not the "absolutely must have it NOW" that they once were. If they were to release an iWatch AFTER the craze takes off...

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This is just a note to myself to revisit this post next week to either offer congratulations or shower abuse.

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Joke

> This is just a note to myself to revisit this post next week to either offer congratulations or shower abuse.

Is offering shower abuse a service you provide often?

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Not sure that Apple really cares about being first to market with anything. They were very late to join the MP3 player bandwagon, remember.

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