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Memory Free Watch

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This essay does not describe an existing computer program, just one that should exist. This essay is about a suggested student project in Java programming. This essay gives a rough overview of how it might work. I have no source, object, specifications, file layouts or anything else useful to implementing this project. Everything I have prepared to help you is right here.

This project outline is not like the artificial, tidy little problems you are spoon-fed in school, when all the facts you need are included, nothing extraneous is mentioned, the answer is fully specified, along with hints to nudge you toward a single expected canonical solution. This project is much more like the real world of messy problems where it is up to you to fully the define the end point, or a series of ever more difficult versions of this project and research the information yourself to solve them.

Everything I have to say to help you with this project is written below. I am not prepared to help you implement it; or give you any additional materials. I have too many other projects of my own.

Though I am a programmer by profession, I don’t do people’s homework for them. That just robs them of an education.

You have my full permission to implement this project in any way you please and to keep all the profits from your endeavour.

Please do not email me about this project without reading the disclaimer above.

Introduction Featuritis
Your Task Repair
The Guide Button Planned Obsolescence: the Battery Problem
Time Resync Futures
Power Reduction


Timex Expedition T49900GP

This project is about designing a new type of wrist watch that has many functions, but is also easy to use and does not require you to memorise the manual. The project was inspired by my Timex Expedition T49900GP watch that has three unpleasant characteristics:

I don’t mean to totally trash it. It has some good qualities:

Your Task

Your job is to design a prototype watch that fixes some of the flaws of this watch. Your virtual watch will display on a computer screen. You can click its buttons with a mouse. It will do everything a real watch would do, including tell time. If we are lucky, we can persuade Timex or some other watch company to build a real watch that behaves just like it.

The Guide Button

The most important feature is the watch has a button, I will call the guide button, that if you hold it down, it resets the watch to simply telling time no matter what state it is in. It is much like the Timex Indiglo button, but has other functions as well.

A typical Timex watch has five buttons. The buttons have hundreds of different functions, depending on what state the watch is in. You cannot possibly remember all this.

When this new watch thinks you are about to press a button, but you are unsure which one, it cycles through all four buttons dedicating the entire display to telling you in turn what each button is for. If you still don’t pick a button, it presumes you don’t want to hit any buttons and puts up some sort of display. If you hit guide again, it tells you what each of the four buttons are for again. If, for example, if were in the middle of changing a countdown timer and abandoned that, it would go back to displaying the date and time or perhaps displaying one of the timers. It would not sit forever waiting for you to change the timer.

It would show you various possible configuration/activity screens and let you click stop when it got to the one of interest, rather than making you navigate there directly with button presses.

Time Resync

The watch would have some sort of automatic resyncing technology so you would not need to manually adjust the date or time or daylight saving. It might work by GPS (Global Positioning System), Colorado atomic clock radio sync, Blue Tooth or WiFi (Wireless Fidelity), whichever is least expensive. Ideally, when you go travelling, just wandering through an airport would be sufficient to set your watch to correct local time, working internally off UTC (Coordinated Universal Time/Temps Universel Coordonné) and remembering tummy time.

Power Reduction

The problem with the watch is the display and control logic might take more power than a conventional watch. So it conserves power by turning off the display entirely after a few seconds of inactivity. To turn the display back on, you give the watch a shake, in a way you would not normally shake the watch, or press the guide button to turn the display back on.

I am presuming a full raster monochrome display that will let be display arbitrary words or images, not limited to the segmented displays of traditional electronic watches. It might use LCD (Liquid Crystal Display), fluorescent, e-Ink… That is more a watch designer engineering decision than yours. Exactly how the display works is primarily a cost/power consumption decision.


Watches usually die under their own weight from featuritis. People buy fancy watches but then only use a minute fraction of their capabilities. With this guided system, with the master reset, you can make the watch as complicated as you wanted without fear of trapping the user in a maze of menus.


To make replacing watch straps easier and watch repairs easier, the model number of the watch and the width of the watch strap in mm should be engraved on the back. The URL (Uniform Resource Locator) of the manufacturer’s website should also be engraved there too. Timex does this already. The website should record when and where you bought each watch both for their use and for yours.

Planned Obsolescence: the Battery Problem

Planned obsolescence has gone out of control with watches. Why? Owners cannot replace their own batteries. The problem is opening the watch breaks the waterproof seal. Department store clerks cannot and will not do it. There are no watch makers any more who will do it. Thankfully, watches now can go for three years on a single battery, but it is as shame to have to throw them away simply because they need a new battery. Presumably, you could send them back to the factory, but then you are without your watch for a month.

One possible solution is to have a rechargeable lithium battery sealed permanently inside the watch. You charge it by induction, laying it on a tray, much the way some cell phone or table computers are recharged.

Watches used to be something you passed down generations. Now they are something you change roughly as often as your smoke detector batteries.

The Strap

If you have some extra time, reinvent the watch strap to overcome two problems:

  1. Now that consumers are expected to change their own watch straps rather that jewellers, it should take less than an hour of fiddling to do it. The little spring loaded pins are far too difficult to use.
  2. Hospitals ban their staff from using watches. If you remove a watch band and look at the filth that accumulates where the band attaches to the watch, you can understand why. The band needs to snap off for easy cleaning and be designed to be sterilised.


In the not that distant future, your watch app may evolve into a watch-designing app so that watch customers without programming skills can add and remove features, change the look and feel by picking from a style catalog, fine tune the colours, tune the watch for a particular language, add engravings and even and add their own code to implement custom features. Once they have it the way they want, the design is sent off to a watch factory where a robot constructs this one-off watch, mostly from prefabricated components and FedExes it back. Since there is no inventory and no unsold watches, this customisation will be relatively inexpensive.

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