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The UT Tower Clock

Atop the UT Tower stands a magnificent clock that keeps the entire campus running on schedule. The four faces of the clock are 12 feet in diameter and are trimmed in gold leaf. Installed in 1936, the hands of the clock were so shiny that people had difficulty seeing the time!

Today, the clock can be seen from most places on campus. The mechanism that controls the time displayed at the Tower is the same mechanism that controls almost all clocks on campus. Strange as it may seem, UT time originates in the Service Building. There are two grand-master clocks located in the Service Building. One grand-master controls campus clocks made by IBM, which are mostly located in the older buildings. IBM clocks do not have hands that measure seconds. The other grand-master controls the Simplex clocks in the newer buildings. Each building on campus houses a clock sub-master, which is linked by telephone wires to one of the grand-masters. Behind most building clocks on campus are wires, not gears.

Unlike other buildings on campus, the Main Building has two sub-masters connected to the IBM grand-master. One sub-master controls the wall clocks in Main; the other controls the Tower clock. The Tower sub-master transmits pulses to the clock housing at the top of the Tower. In the clock housing, a set of weights on chains provides stored energy that actually operates the clock. Each pulse from the sub-master causes a weight to drop a fraction of an inch. Each weight is connected to a gear that moves the hands on the clock faces. Once the weights reach the floor, an electric motor pulls them to the top of the chain to start the process again.

Before using the two grand-master clocks, UT kept time according to WWV, the National Bureau of Standards short-wave radio station in Fort Collins, Colorado. WWV sent radio signals to a master clock located in the Student Services Building. The master clock converted the radio signals into pulses that were then transmitted over telephone wires to two sub-masters in the basement of the Tower. UT stopped using signals from WWV in the 1980s due to continual interference which prevented the master clock from receiving the signal reliably. In the future, UT may use WWV’s signals again, or use a global positioning satellite to keep accurate time on campus.
An old sub-master is still in the Tower basement.  

 


Out with the Old Ring Those Bells Once Upon a Time Main The Genius Inside Out In the News

12 May 1999
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