New postby Fortunat Mueller-Maerki » Fri Oct 17, 2008 1:41 pm

O is for ... Oscillator

and the heart of most clocks (mechanical, electrical or electronic) is its oscillator. An oscillator is a device constructed for oscillation.

Wikipedia defines oscillation as:... the repetitive variation, typically in time, of some measure about a central value (often a point of equilibrium) or between two or more different states. Familiar examples include a swinging pendulum and AC power. The term vibration is sometimes used more narrowly to mean a mechanical oscillation but sometimes is used to be synonymous with "oscillation."


An undamped spring-mass system is an oscillatory system. [Image from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Simple_harmonic_oscillator.gif]
Simple_harmonic_oscillator.gif (51.99 KiB) Viewed 818 times

The oscillator determines how fast (or slow) a system runs.

All horological oscillators are 'driven oscillators', i.e. they require (and get) a constant or periodic input of energy from an energy source to keep oscillating.

Common oscillators in horology are:

The pendulum

The torsional pendulum

The foliot

The spring mass system (illustrated above)

The hairspring/balance wheel system

The tuning fork (e.g. for the Bulova Accutron watch)

The vibrating quartz crystal (which physically speaking is an electro-mechanical oscillator)

The AC power generator at the powerplant (for your synchronous electric clock)

Various electrical circuits can be built to be oscillators

A cesium atom (in an atomic clock)

Timekeepers without oscillators are:

The hourglass (sandglass)

The sundial

Some clepsydras (although some clepsydras do have have pendulums)

The fireclock (Incense clock).
Fortunat Mueller-Maerki
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