5 Ways People Woke Up On Time Before Alarm Clocks

5 Ways People Woke Up On Time Before Alarm Clocks

We take for granted that getting up on time for a morning meeting is as simple as clicking around on a smartphone (leaving aside the actual process of getting out of bed). Have you ever wondered how people woke up on time for work before alarm clocks? Read on for five clever ways people managed their mornings throughout history.

Water Clocks

Water clocks are among the oldest devices people used to measure time, alongside hourglasses and sundials. They work by measuring the steady flow of water into a vessel. The ancient Greeks developed an advanced version of the water clock known called a "clepsydra," versions of which worked as alarms by ringing bells or gongs when the water reached a certain level.

Religious Wake-up Calls

Across many different societies and faiths, in a tradition that continues to this day, places of worship use noise to mark the passage of time or signal when it’s time to pray. For instance, Christians use church bells, and Muslims use prayer calls. Both these traditions serve a practical as well as a religious purpose.


Once people realized that candles burn at a relatively steady rate, it wasn’t long before they thought of ways to use them as alarm clocks. In Europe, people embedded metal balls into their candles at particular points, which dropped onto a metal plate and made a sound that was supposed to be loud enough to wake you up. If you think this wouldn’t work for heavy sleepers, you’re probably right.


During the Industrial Revolution, in Britain and Ireland, "knocker-ups" or "knocker-uppers" would use a stick or long pole to bang on people’s windows in the morning for a few pence a week. In the 1920s, alarm clocks became cheaper and widely available, so the profession more or less died out.

The Factory Whistle

This is another relic from the Industrial Revolution. People often lived near the factories they worked in, which would blare a loud, piercing whistle when it was time to go to work. Quite the rude awakening!

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