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How Modern Clocks Replaced Two Jobs

Jobs and Tech

Which type of person are you? Do you jump out of bed, eager to start the day, when your alarm goes off? Or do you do what it takes to shut off your alarm, curses and hand slamming included?

No matter which type you are, you likely had that alarm set because you needed to be somewhere in the morning, and you needed your alarm clock to stop you from sleeping in. Imagine life without your alarm clock. If you forget to set your clocks back or ahead for daylight savings, your computer or phone does it for you, leaving one less excuse to be late for work.

Now let’s turn the clocks back (so to speak) to years ago, when clocks weren’t as reliable as they are now. Workers needed people, not tech, to help them get up on time in the morning. Back then, people could get a job to help people keep time.


Years ago, people either didn’t have reliable alarm clocks or couldn’t afford a clock. They also couldn’t be late for work. During the Industrial Revolution, being on time for work was crucial.

In some European countries, workers paid a knocker-up, also called a knocker-upper, to wake them up on time. The knocker-upper used a baton or stick to tap on the worker’s window to wake that person up. In some cases, they would tap the window several times, and in other cases, they would continue to tap until they were sure their client was awake.

It wasn’t just the working class that employed knocker-uppers. Wealthy families would employ them to knock non-stop at their window until they woke up. Other knocker-uppers used straws to shoot peas at clients’ windows.

Shooting peas (and being paid to do so) sounds like fun for people of any age, but of course there’s a catch. A person doing this job needs to be a night owl who is willing to stay up and work at night. Most knocker-uppers were elderly men and women. Some were police constables who took on this side gig during early morning patrols.

clock keepers

Another job created because people couldn’t rely on their clocks was the role of clock keeper. Back in Middle Age Europe, clock keepers were paid a lot of money to make sure that the clock or clocks in their care were keeping time accurately.

A clock keeper may have been employed by one person, such as the owner of a manor, or a group of people, such as an entire town. Regulating the town clock was a huge responsibility. Similarly, maintaining the clock of a monastery was an important job. The church’s schedule and rituals relied on that clock.

Key Takeaways

The need for a clock keeper with excellent math skills is no longer required today. We also don’t require someone to tap on our windows to tell us it’s time to get up for work. We expect that our clocks and alarm clocks are reliable.

Modern inventions have replaced these two jobs, but they have created other jobs for people to create better time-keeping devices.

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