The “talking clock” ceased a century after its inception

“In fourth place, it would be… this time! When I was young, my mother always told me to use a talking watch, as if that was all she had to do.”recalls laughing with AFP Claire Salpetriere, 51, an English teacher in Magnanville.

“I was surprised it was still there, it was something we knew when we were kids, when we didn’t have cell phones yet. It came in very handy when we had to get on the train or plane”says Antonio Garcia, 51, a clinic director in Moulins-en-Yveline. “I remember the sound of whistling.”

The “speaking clock” was born in 1933 and was invented by Ernest Escalangon, astronomer and director of the Paris Observatory. Accessible across the country via 3699, this century-old service was provided by Orange, the heiress to the current telecom operator. In 1991, a dedicated infrastructure was created, in partnership with the observatory, to ensure the publication of legal time in France with a temporal resolution of about 10 milliseconds.

‘Like a movie camera’

“It was really something for the kids, something for a teenager, just what we needed when we had a power outage and had to put everything back in time. I am sad and nostalgic when I learned it was shut down; it’s like a movie camera versus a digital camera”Charlotte Vanbein, 43, who is in charge of media relations, testifies.

“Children today are taking advantage of all the technologies and don’t know everything we know. Good things are lost”, She is scarring. The cessation of this historical service is the result of “Planned end of life” Basic equipment for its operation, above all ‘Sustainable and significant decline’ The number of calls to 3699, billed at 1.50 euros plus the price of the call for the last hours of its existence.

“We got several million calls a year in 1991. There was a benefit that was very strong at the time, but little by little we saw an erosion” no longer arrive “A few tens of thousands of calls in 2021”, explains to AFP Catherine Britton, director of marketing at Orange. Smartphones, computers, tablets, connected things … With the digitization of devices and the multiplication of sources that can give time, The need for the Talking Clock service has diminished over time.she adds.

It is part of the national heritage

The fourth generation model, the latest version of the “Talking Clock” sourced from the Paris Observatory’s “Coordinated Universal Time”, which was created from a set of atomic clocks from the SYRTE Laboratory, in the shelter in a safe and permanent-air-conditioned room.

“It does something for me.”humbly trusts Michel Abgarel, CNRS research engineer at LNE-SYRTE, who has been responsible for monitoring the famous mechanism at the Paris Observatory for several years. “It’s still a service that’s been running for nearly 90 years, and it’s part of the national heritage. It bothers me that it stops when I’m the one taking care of it”He adds with a laugh, before reassuring the exact time nerds: The public will always be able to know the official time … on the Paris Observatory website.

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