While it has become a cliché, the concept of roosters serving as morning alarms is based in reality. For centuries people relied on these faithful foul to ensure they did not sleep the day away; however, eventually human beings figured out how to build alarm clocks to help them decide for themselves when to awaken.
Most clock historians agree that the Greeks invented the first alarm clocks in roughly 250 B.C. These clocks operated with dripping water to measure time. Once the water reached a certain level, it triggered a lever or mechanical bird, that, in turn, triggered a sound like a whistle. This was as advanced as alarm clocks were for centuries. Levi Hutchins, of Concord, N.H., invented the first mechanical alarm clock in 1787; however, Hutchins' alarm bell only sounded at 4 a.m., which limited its appeal to the masses. In 1876, Seth E. Thomas, a Connecticut carpenter who became a clock-maker, patented the first mechanical alarm clock, a wind-up model, that people were able to set for any time of the day or night. Clock historians disagree about the origin of the first digital alarm clock. Some say it debuted in the late 1950s while others say it did not appear until the early 1970s and that 1950s versions were more analog than digital.
Over time, people have altered the alarm clock to include various features, such as playing music instead of emitting a ringing or beeping sound. The snooze feature, invented in 1956, remains among the more popular of such features. Meanwhile, smartphones, which are capable of a wide variety of functions, are increasingly taking the place of traditional alarm clocks.