I’ve been obsessed with optimising and tracking my time since university. I wanted to know exactly where I was spending my time, and how it’s possible that I seemingly could go through a whole week without achieving anything. It boiled down to random bouts of procrastination, and I wanted a way to fix that.
I was thinking of creating an app of some sort to constantly remind you that time is running out. It was then, back in 2017, that I chanced across an article about a failed Kickstarter project. It was a clock that showed you the number of seconds you had left to live and the idea really spoke to me. Interestingly, it appeared I wasn’t alone seeing as the project was fully backed and reached its funding goal. At that time I was enthralled by the idea, it was novel yet simple enough to build. It wasn’t something like a new phone nor did it have complex electronics. So you can imagine my surprise and disappointment when I learnt that they failed to deliver presumably due to supply chain issues.
This is not a novel concept, similar products exist in the digital realm, typically marketed as productivity or motivational tools. Here’s a chrome extension, aptly named Motivation, that provides your age to the 11th decimal point. Each time you open a new tab, you would see your time ticking by, maybe motivating you to not procrastinate?
Hardware wise, making the product seemed quite straightforward. How hard can it be to display 10 digits and make it count down? Get an Arduino, a display and a clock. The more I thought about it, the more reasonable it felt for me to simply build it myself. All I needed was an LCD screen and an Arduino, but the aesthetic did not really appeal to me. I didn’t want a 3D printer telling me when I’m going to die.
Making the prototype
That’s when I thought of actual alarm clocks built with 7-segment displays. I wondered how to control a whole bunch of those displays with a microcontroller like an arduino. The more I thought about it, the more I realised I didn’t have an idea off the top of my head. This was a problem worthy of wasting my time on. I won’t bore you with the details, you can bore yourself over on the technical portion of the blog if I ever get around to posting it.”