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George The Talking Clock

One of my favourite segments on the Fiftyup Club radio show is “Please Explain”. Each week, Dave Liston (pictured below) from the Fiftyup office comes into the studio to explain something trendy that the youth of today are into. We were surprised this week when Dave threw one back at me with “Why do you older people call the talking clock?”

Fair point. My mother still calls it (1194) to check if the household clocks are accurate and apparently she isn’t alone.

Brian Mullins is the Manager of the Telstra Museum at Bankstown in Sydney. Brian told us that the talking clock was originally voiced by Gordon Gow, a theatre critic who was paid $100. Later the job was taken over by Richard Peach, brother of Bill. Richard’s voice can still be heard today. Apparently it took 20 minutes to record the whole sequence as Richard only had to read the numbers 1-12, 1-59 and say “at the third stroke it will be”

The original machine is still working and kept at the Bankstown Museum a long with old rotary dial phones and other telecommunications paraphernalia.

I was intrigued to discover that before the clock was computerised, the time was read live by changing shifts of women every 30 minutes. Their job was to mark off time in 30-second lots, speaking as soon as the light flashed. Needless-to-say, it wasn’t a popular job!

XX people call the number XXXXX

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Gertraud
Gertraud from ACT commented:

That is still going? Really? I haven't called the number for at least a couple of decades. But speaking of old telephony, I have some vintage phones, one of them a black bakelite phone with a handle to turn instead of a dial. Two others were the style from the 80s with push buttons and a couple from the 90s. I also have a testing box that was used by technicians in an exchange until the mid-80s. In addition to the telephone dial, it has a few levers to flick, and I had a friendly telephone technician adjust it to be used as a telephone before digital became the norm. 

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