Can you imagine a clock formed from old analog meters mounted in an antique-looking wooden box? Now imagine an interpretation of a Vetinari clock (the mind boggles).
The image below shows a Visio drawing of my first-pass layout. The great thing about doing this sort of thing in Visio is that you can easily move the elements around to try different scenarios. I don't want to have all the meters in a straight line, because that would be boring. Once I was in Visio, I quickly gravitated to having the big meter on the left, the two medium meters on the upper right, and the small meter between and below the medium meters.
Originally, I'd vaguely thought about arranging things so that the distance from the top of the big meter to top of the two medium meters was the same as the distance from the bottom of the big meter to the bottom of the small meter, if you see what I mean. However, I quite like the arrangement shown above, in which the bottom of the two medium meters and the top of the small meter line up with the horizontal centerline of the big meter. Good grief, it's hard to explain this in words, but I'm sure my Visio drawing will help clear things up.
I have to admit that I'm fighting my natural inclination to overengineer everything. I keep on thinking about adding meters to display things like the seasons and moon phases, but if I did that, I might end up with something huge and ungainly that looks like the cockpit of a Victorian spaceship, so I'm resolved to stick with the four meters as discussed above.
In fact, I've already picked out the meters I intend to use, as shown below. (This explains why the previous image includes actual measurements.) Of course, I'll have to change the graphics and legends on the meter's faceplates, but we can discuss this in a future column.
As fate would have it, I visited my chum Bob the carpenter yesterday. Bob has a workshop in downtown Huntsville, Ala., where he specializes in restoring and recreating antique furniture. I took my four meters down to show him and ask his advice. We decided that a dark walnut case would look rather tasty. I had been thinking of a dark front panel also, but Bob says he has some wood with a very interesting grain and an almost silvery hue. He says he used some of it to replace the dashboard in a sports car, and the result looked almost like aluminum with a wood grain. He says that we can give my clock a real Art Deco look and feel. Ooh, shiny.
As I mentioned earlier, my clock is definitely going to feature a robust "tick-tock" sound. I'll include a small loudspeaker and stream real-world audio recordings. As part of this, I'm also planning on including an optional Vetinari Mode based on Lord Havelock Vetinari from Terry Pratchett's Discworld book series.
Lord Vetinari, the scary dictator of the city-state of Ankh-Morpork, has a strange clock in his waiting room. It does keep completely accurate time overall, but it sometimes ticks and tocks out of sync: "tick, tock, tick, tock… tick-tock-tick… tock…" In fact, it occasionally misses a tick or tock altogether. For anyone sitting in Vetinari's waiting room, the result is somewhat discombobulating. By the time you come to your audience, your nerves are already frazzled. Hey, if it's good enough for a Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, it's certainly good enough for yours truly.
What say you? Do you like the sound of this project (no "tick-tock" pun intended)? Are there any other special modes you would include? And, if this version is successful and I eventually decide to construct a more fulsome model, what other factors -- number of days to the next full moon, for example -- could/should I present?
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting