Technology and Time

I have a small collection of wristwatches; nothing fancy and certainly nothing priceless, but I like them for one reason or another. One belonged to my late father, another was a graduation gift, and one was purchased in Hawaii. A couple of others are inexpensive ‘team’ watches that I wear on game days. However, two watches in my collection have been rendered obsolete by (ironically) the march of time as well as technology.

Let me explain what I mean. One watch that I received as a gift some years ago at a Microsoft MVP gathering in Toronto is a Suunto N3 SPOT watch. SPOT is an acronym for Smart Personal Objects Technology, and at the time it was quite a wonderful piece of technology to wear on one’s wrist (although it is quite large as watches go). Here is a photo of my particular model:

Yes, for a small subscription fee, you could get weather, news, sports, stock market updates and more, delivered right to your watch via satellite. It was so cool. Want to know the weather outside while working (and not near a TV or PC)? Just press a button. News alerts would cause the watch to give an audible ‘tweet’ and the news alert would be displayed. Want to know the current score of a football game? Press another button. And so on…

The one caveat to this fine service was that it only worked in major metropolitan areas, so once you were out of the coverage area, you would no longer get updates until you entered back into or entered another coverage area.

Other than that, the built-in rechargeable battery kept it going, and it keeps perfect time for which I still treasure it, and since MSN long since discontinued the subscription service, keeping time is all it can do. You can read more on the SPOT watch and it’s demise here at the Washington Post.

The other watch I want to mention is not one that technology has surpassed, but one that had limitations from Day One. It is my Seiko (M354-5019) “James Bond” watch. I call it a James Bond watch because a similar model was featured in the 1979 Bond film “Moonraker”. After seeing the movie (way back then), I had to have one! I used my first full-time paycheck to purchase it. I cannot recall the cost, but I think it was in the $150 – $200 range, a lot of money for ’79 and a teenager just out of high school.

Anyway, the other day I noticed it was running a couple of minutes slow, so I set it to the correct time, but as I cycled through the settings I noticed this for the year display (click to enlarge):

Yes, that is “1930”! What’s up with that?

Apparently, the watch was only programmed to go to the year 2009, then cycles back to 1930, the earliest year available. Now why this is so is a mystery to me…why program anything for that far back in time, and far enough ahead? Was the technology not available then to go beyond 2009? True, 30 years ago, 2009 was a long way off to someone about 19 or 19 years old, but whatever the reason, I can set the year to one corresponding to 2010 using a perpetual calendar, which tells me 1999 is the closest year with the same start date and number of days as 2010. Not a big deal, since I usually can tell you what year it is without looking at a watch or a wall calendar. Month and day display is fine with me.

I wonder if any of the digital watches available today have such limitations? Better off with a good analog watch, I guess!