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Atomic Clocks

Actually "Radio Controlled Clocks"
An Atomic clock is the general name used to describe any variety of time keeping devices based on the regular vibrations associated with atoms. Many clocks you may purchase today offer an "Atomic Movement". These are actually "Radio Controlled" clocks which receive the correct time from the National Bureau of Standards Cesium (atomic) clock in Fort Collins, Colorado.

How a Radio Controlled Clock Works:
Radio Controlled Clocks set themselves by listening for the radio signals of the NIST Atomic Clock in Fort Collins, Colorado. Radio Controlled clocks receive a 60-kilohertz, low frequency AM radio signal from the WWVB radio station maintained by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The NIST is the official timekeeper for the US and is located in Boulder, Colorado. Its WWVB station is located nearby in Ft. Collins. The NIST and its sister agency, the US Naval Observatory, participate with an international coalition of agencies to determine official world time, called Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

As soon as the Radio Controlled Clock caches the signal, the hands will spin at 20 times their normal rate and the time is adjusted to accuracy with less than a one-second deviation in one million years!  When you place the battery in the Radio Controlled clock, so not expect it to snap to the correct time as it will not. The Radio Controlled clock has to first be told where you are by setting the time zone selection for where you are in the US. The movements available for analog clocks (clocks with hands) are programmable for EST, CST, MST and PST. These will not work in Alaska or Hawaii.

If the clock will not receive the low frequency AM radio signal from the WWVB radio station in Colorado, your clock will not function correctly. If you are close to Colorado, you should not have a problem, but in downtown Manhattan you may have an obstacle because of the distance, the obstructions (tall buildings) and stray RF signals (Radio Frequency) emitting  from other AM sources and computers. Many times in remote areas if you set the clock and leave it near a Westerly facing window, it will pick up the signal and set itself. This will work better at night when the AM signals travel farther or when it maybe cloudy where the signal may bounce. Hang your clock after it picks up the signal. Even it remote areas with obstructions, the clock will probably pickup a stray signal occasionally and correct itself.

If your analog radio controlled clock (clock with hands) doesn't pickup the signal within a day, try the following:

1) Take out the battery and place the battery in backwards for about 10 seconds, then replace it again in the correct position.

2) Just after replacing the battery, press the Time Zone button for about 5 seconds on the back that corresponds with the time zone where you are located.

3) Shortly after the hands should start turning 20 times their normal speed and stop at 4:00 or 8:00 or 12:00. This means the clock is working properly and now looking and waiting for the signal.

4) Place the clock near a westerly  window overnight and then the clock should reset overnight and read the correct time.

**If you had previously pushed the manual mode flap (switch), take a pen or paperclip and make sure it is pulled out in the off position.


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