Time’s up for the iconic talking clock

By Australian Geographic 30 September 2019
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At the third stroke, there will be… no more dial-up talking clock.

DESPITE NEARLY two million calls last year to Australia’s ‘talking clock’, at the third stroke past midnight tonight (30 September 2019), it will fall silent.

For 66 years, its striking, deep, full voice has provided Australians with a millisecond precise time-keeping service – “at the third stroke, it will be… 9.34 and 20 seconds” before the familiar “pip, pip, pip” – just by dialling 1194.

Before its automation 66 years ago, people wanting to know the exact time would dial a telephone exchange, and operators would read the time from the exchange clock.

In 1953, theatre critic Gordon Gow was paid £100 to record the hours, minutes and seconds for a new, mechanised system, nicknamed “George”.

In 1990, Telstra replaced Gow’s voice with ABC broadcaster Richard Peach. It’s his voice that will fall silent.

A Telstra spokesman said the service was not compatible with its new network technology.

“It’s like any time you upgrade to radically new technology, sometimes older services wouldn’t work,” the spokesman said.

It was similar to how, “with software, if you’re trying to use Microsoft Word 95 with the latest operating system, Windows 10”, the spokesman said.

“Or with iPhone 3, you won’t see those products working with the latest iPhone software. It’s not compatible.”

To hear “George” one last time, dial 1194 before midnight tonight. If you miss the deadline, you can enjoy his sonorous tones below. And for a short history, head here.