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You too can learn to set your VCR clock!
by Christopher Minnick
February, 1997

It has come to my attention that many people seem to be baffled by technology - in particular, the most devilish technology of them all, the VCR clock. The problem seems to be reaching epidemic proportions lately, as more and more people are complaining that their inability to master this technology is impeding their ability to learn anything at all, or that the fact that their VCR clock flashes 12:00 is indicative of their inability to operate any consumer electronics. I have become quite concerned for the psychological health of my country recently, and in a wonderfully charitable act, I've decided to provide my fellow citizens with the knowledge that is necessary to become competent, perhaps even proficient, with the VCR clock.

A small book is included with every VCR unit. Do not throw this book away. This book contains valuable information which will aid you greatly in your pursuance of VCR skills. (I am assuming here that you have mastered the technological intricacies of reading and turning pages...not to mention the complexities of using an index or table of contents. If you are semi-fluent in one language, you are, indeed, very close to setting that VCR clock.)

Unfortunately, most of the people who would be aided by this article already own a VCR, and this VCR has a clock of the digital variety, and the book of secrets that came with this VCR was likely discarded long ago. Fear not, lost souls, the situation is not hopeless. Although there are several different varieties of VCR clocks, all of them share a number of important features. By understanding these universal VCR clock features, a person of average intelligence should be able to figure out the specific workings of their own VCR.

In this country, we use a 12 hour clock. This means that each day (the 24 hour period that it takes for the earth to turn around once on its axis) is divided into two 12 hour halves: the AM half and the PM half. Most VCR clocks are designed to indicate whether it is now AM or PM. For example: when a clock reads only 12:00, it may either indicate noon or midnight, but if a clock displays an AM next to the 12:00, you can be certain that the clock is indicating that it is midnight. (of course, this may not agree with any other clock in your home, because you have not yet discovered how to change the numbers on your VCR clock.)

The first number in the time (before the colon) on a digital clock indicates the hour, as I alluded to earlier. If your VCR clock uses the standard system of time used in this country, this will always be a number between one and 12. The number after the colon indicates minutes. There are 60 of these units in each hour. The numbers on the minute side of the colon (the right side) increment by one starting with double zero (00) until they reach 59. Fifty-nine is always followed by double zero on a digital clock.

One of the most confusing and difficult to understand things about many older VCR clocks is that when the clock is being set, the minute side and the hour side of the colon are treated as separate and unrelated numbers. The most obvious mental hurdle this creates for the average person is that no matter how many times you increment the minutes during the setting process, the hour will not change. VCR clocks are made this way in order to save the user the frustration of ever having to press a button (or combination of buttons) 720 times to get from midnight to noon. This problem has been eliminated in many of the newer VCRs which allow the user to simply use the numbers on the remote control to set the clock. Once you understand these few rules about time and digital clocks, the problem of setting your VCR clock becomes only a mechanical one. I imagine that the VCR clocks that give most people trouble are not the newer, remote control variety. Therefore, in the interest of brevity, I will only explain the setting process for what is perhaps the most difficult to understand type of VCR clock. Most VCR clocks are sufficiently similar to this type to not warrant a full description of all of the possible variations.

Older VCRs will have a button, sometimes hidden under a panel below the digital display, which will be labeled "set" or "clock" or "clock set". When this button is pressed, one of the three or four elements of the time (some clocks allow the user to set the day of the week) will begin to flash. When a number, or day of the week or two letter combination indicating AM or PM is flashing, the user may increment or change its value by pressing a different button (usually one of two arrows, one indicating forward and one indicating backward adjustment). The usual strategy is to change the value of each element of the time to match another clock which you know to be approximately accurate (i.e. your watch). When you have successfully adjusted the first element of the time, you may move on to the second by pressing the button marked "clock" or "set" or "clock set". Repeat this process until all of the elements in the time adequately reflect the actual time. If anything is still flashing or if the VCR is not automatically advancing the time, press the "clock" button again to exit the setting mode. Congratulations, you have set your VCR clock.

I hope that in writing this article I have eliminated many people's fears about technology, and that, free from the single most difficult problem of modern life you will no longer mistakenly believe that mastery of technology and computers is impossible. It was not long ago that the majority of people in the world were afraid of toilets. Perhaps it just took a simple written explanation of the process of flushing to calm everyone's fears about this once bold and magical technology. The benefits of learning to use the toilet, as we now know, were enormous. No longer did human excrement litter the streets, and it wasn't very long before cholera was virtually eliminated along with many of the other problems that were created by the rise of large cities during the 19th century. Perhaps now, we can move into a new era in which, not only will VCR clocks accurately reflect the actual time, but just maybe the human race will unite in the purpose of expanding our knowledge and understanding of the universe. We could be on the verge of a great new age in which fear of the unknown will be replaced with eagerness to explore and expand our capabilities.

"More and more people are complaining that their inability to master this technology is impeding their ability to learn anything at all."

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