Is an Alarm Clock a Computer?

Find out if your alarm clock is considered a computer.

Updated: September 1, 2022

Clocks are fascinating. They work in incredible ways to monitor and keep track of time. Alarm clocks that run on mains power and have a digital screen are electronic devices. But are they considered computers?

In the modern age, the answer is no, alarm clocks are not generally considered computers. They can be part of a computer (like our Online Alarm Clock), but as stand-alone devices (like as a wind-up, analog, or digital alarm clock), they are not considered computers.

The reason why is because clocks are not considered computers, so, if a clock isn't a computer, neither is an alarm clock, no matter how it's powered. Plus, clocks were invented centuries before computers, so if a clock was a computer, Charles Babbage didn't invent anything in 1822!

Are Clocks Considered Computers?

Generally, no, clocks are not considered computers, but it's open to interpretation. The reason most people believe clocks are not computers starts with the definition of a computer.

By definition, a computer is, "an electronic device that manipulates, stores, retrieves, and processes information or data".

Analog clocks (also known as wall clocks) are not typically referred to as electronic devices, as they run on batteries and are considered battery-operated. They also don't manipulate, store, retrieve, or process data.

Instead, the battery powers a motor, which moves the gears and displays time. Therefore, analog clocks don't meet the definition of a computer.

Is a Digital Clock a Computer?

Digital clocks are electronic and are therefore considered electronic devices. However, they merely display time using a counter and an LED screen. They don't manipulate, store, retrieve, or process data.

You can change some settings on a digital clock (for example, to set an alarm or change the time), but this is not considered "processing" in the same way a laptop, smartphone, or computer manages data.

Changes made generally rely on resetting counters or moving cogs, rather than inputting anything complex that requires understanding. Therefore, digital clocks don't generally meet the definition of a computer.

Final Thoughts

Even though alarm clocks are fascinating (especially early versions that use mechanics to run!), they are not considered computers in the modern world. While some alarm clocks are part of computers (like those found on smartphones), they are not generally considered computers as standalone devices.

Author: Burak Özdemir

My name is Burak, and I used to have difficulties waking up in the morning due to unreliable alarm clocks. Over the past few years, I've dedicated part of my life to finding the best alarm clocks and sharing my knowledge with people through this blog.