My dad used to tinker constantly with electronics. He used to repair radios, televisions etc. and often he would design and build gadgets of all sorts. For a while he made digital clocks. We had a cuckoo clock in our living room that he made; it was all electronic and entirely of his own design and building, containing (if I remember correctly) 102 transistors plus all of the other components, all hand-wired!

The subject of this post, however, was the timer clock he made for me as a high school graduation present, in 1975. It was complete with a digital LED readout, a row of switches for the various functions, a heavy-duty mechanical relay and an outlet, into which you could plug in anything you wanted. All you had to do was set the clock, set the timer, plug something into the outlet (like a radio) and turn it on. When the timer turned on, the radio would play. It was as simple as that. I used this thing to wake up every morning for literally thirty years.

With the alarm already set for 6:30 am, I turned on the radio as usual. But this morning, instead of waking up to music at 6:30, I was gradually awakened by an odd buzzing noise, more like a normal alarm clock but much softer. I didn’t awaken fully until 7:07. Checking the timer clock, I realized that the mechanical relay had finally stopped working, and that’s what was making the buzzing noise.

My first thought was to get ahold of a new relay at a local electronics store, and a soldering iron (since I do not own one presently) and repair the clock myself. It shouldn’t be that difficult, I thought; there would only be two connections to the relay, and it should be easy to find and trace. Then I realized that Dad was only a few years older than I am now, when he built this clock—and I was the youngest child! The clock actually outlasted Dad himself, who passed away from stomach cancer in 2001, at age 79. This clock served me for thirty years and was like an old friend. To mess with it now would almost amount to sacrilege, besides being impractical since a new clock radio may well cost less than the part needed to fix this one.

Now I noticed that the LED readout was also darker than normal; the entire clock was dying. Sadly, I unplugged it, dusted it off, wound up the cord and put it away in a safe place. Whenever I see it in the future, I will always remember not only Dad’s uncanny genius in electronics, but also his tender love for me, his youngest son. Thanks, Dad!