I've always been interested in idiosyncratic ways of displaying the time. Once upon a time I bought my Uncle Bill one of those desktop binary clocks (probably from Think Geek or an impulse buy at Micro Center...) After his death, my Aunt Susan let me grab it as a momento, a tribute to our shared geekery. Its display is something like this:

(Mouse or press on it to see a hint about the number it's displaying...)

it's not the easiest thing to know the time from, but it's fun trying to teach oneself to read binary, and its been a nice conversation piece at work, and can be a little hypnotic. (I think the actual clock is locked to use 12-hour time, though in theory it has lights enough for 24 hour time, which I'm using here.)

But the clock always seemed a bit cheat-y to me... in theory, the time can be represented as 3 numbers (hours, minutes, seconds) but this clock uses Binary Coded Decimal (heh- that wikipedia page uses this kind of clock as an example!) Each decimal digit is separately translated into its binary form.

Here's what a more "honest binary" version might look like, with each binary column reprenting hours, minutes, or seconds:

But it's that much tougher to read. And in some ways unsatisfactory - in binary, each dot is worth twice the one next to it, but that doesn't really show in an intuitive way. What if we scaled it so each dot's area was twice that of its neighbor as well? (Which is both more honest and easier to space then if we said it was the radius that scaled...)

(I also inverted it - I find it more satisfying to have "heavier" things beneath lighter things, and to have a visual rhyme with values falling in gravity, like droplets...)

It's still not completely honest, I guess, since each column's digit values are the same size, but hours are made up of many minutes, and minutes are made up of many seconds. I could scale the dots further, but maybe I should just be REALLY honest and have a clock that's minutes in a day?

I tried to do seconds, but the idea just doesn't scale well to the 86 400 that make up a day...

(These clocks dedicated to the memory of my Uncle Bill! I'll always slightly second guess not applying to MIT and getting another brass rat in the family.)