My Favorite Alarm Clock
Dateline 1982: I get a new alarm clock, a Timex Speak-Easy that talks, ie says the time at alarm or when you push a button.
Update 1996: My Speak-Easy's health declines until the display and speech go haywire. Clock repair shops tell me "get over it, no one repairs digital clocks." But I like it! It tells me the time in the morning without having to put on my glasses!!
Update January '02: Finally one shows up on eBay. I wait til the last day to bid above the $7 minimum. But in the final hours, bids roll in ... $8 ... $25 ... $46 ... sold for $93! What's going on? So I do some checking. The last thing the runner-up bidder had won was another Speak-Easy (I'd missed it, as it was snapped up via Buy It Now). Only two other mentions surface: a 1998 want ad in a Braille newsletter and an appearance in a video clip someone made to accompany a Smash Mouth song (the clock's voice appears at the beginning of the song). Otherwise, no clue as to its popularity. Maybe the first ebay seller captured its allure the best:
Styling is very Tron meets the first Star Trek movie. I think it's worth more as a statement of Reagan era design. Strange L shape if viewed sideways. Has that Texas Instruments southern drawl man's voice time announce. Plus a ding dong you haven't heard since Radio Shack started carrying piezo buzzers.
So it's back to scanning thrift shops and eBay for a working Speak-Easy....
March '02: Nick Gaudio sends this note:
I've been going just as crazy trying to find a replacement myself! I bought mine circa 1990 at a yard sale thinking it would just be something cool to have, but I immediately fell in love with it... Mine is in the process of dying - the voice sounds like a 90 yr. old man and is slowly fading out and it's been in 3 or 4 life-threatening accidents: the wire shorted out and I actually paid $5 to replace the plug instead of buying a new clock, it has been hit by an exploding water balloon, it has been rained on, and it has been knocked 4 feet to the floor, but yet it will not die! I was searching the web to try and find a new one when I stumbled across your page and I was shocked to find out that our Speak-easy is so legendary!
June '02: Ludwig Von Wittelsbach sends this note:
I bought my Timex Speak-Easy in September 1984, and it served me well until 1990, when the controls started getting sticky and weren't responding very well. I retired it to my garage that year. I had named him Jack. Seeing as it was a voice-synthesized clock, he seemed to have his own personality. During the early '90s, I moved from my home in
Rancho Palos Verdes, California, to Quito, Ecuador. But last year, 2001, on a return home, I went through my things in the garage. Lo and behold, I unearthed Jack, dusted off the cobwebs, and took him back to my home in Quito.
I plugged him in and even though the controls were still kind of stubborn, he seemed to have found a new lease on life! Unfortunately, before long, Jack uttered his last gasp. However, it just didn't seem right to toss him in the trash there in Quito. Therefore, on my current visit to the United States, I brought him back with me to give him a proper burial in my backyard in Rancho Palos Verdes.... Your diary brought back fond memories of Jack. May he rest in peace.
October '02: Eric Downs sends this note:
I acquired my Timex Speak Easy from an older neighbor lady who bought if for me at a garage sale. I have had it for 17 years. It is the only thing that can wake me up in the morning. It has been through rain and my wife who threatened to destroy it for the first couple years of our marrage (she hated it but then she started using it) and the occasional electrical outage makes it hum until you disconnect the battery and plug it back in. I am looking for a spare just in case.
February '04: Arnie Schwartz sends this note...
I thought I would write you a short note about my Speak-easy alarm clock. We purchased the clock new around 1985 at Gemco. It has served us well all these years. Around 1990, some segments on the digital display did not light up. So you could not tell if it was 6pm or 8pm. However, the voice chip has worked flawless all these years. Our daughter, knowing that our alarm clock was not functioning at its best, gave us a gift of a new replacement digital alarm clock. We did not want to hurt her feelings, so we plugged it in and displayed it in our bedroom. However, we continued using our speak-easy, in spite of its problems. Since I have some electronic knowledge, one of these days I will take apart our speak-easy to see if I can repair the digital segments.
Same week, Darvell sends this:
I was pleased to come across your web page featuring the Timex Speak-Easy talking clock. I have one of these that I've LOVED for years and have been trying to find a replacement. The new ones just don't compare. I bought mine somewhere around December 30, 1984 (which was my birthday). I was in high school at the time and my mom wanted to give me a present, so we went down to the store (drug store, actually) and saw it for $40. My mom intended to spend $20 so I added $20 to buy it. I've been using it ever since. It has been plugged in and working (and announcing the time every half hour) ever since, with only a few short intervals of not being used. That's almost 20 years of constant use! Mine has the black case, not silver, and I'm not sure what that means. I don't know if it's a later version or just a different color.
I was able to purchase a silver one on eBay (for a lot of money, I thought) and I use it as well, but the sound isn't very good. It sounds like the electronic voice has mush in its mouse. My black one is still crisp and clear, except that the light sensor is wearing out (which dims the display at night). I love my clock and would never part with it until it dies a dreadful death. I've bid a couple of times on eBay to purchase one (they don't show up often), but I usually stop at around $100 and they keep going. I'm still looking for another one if you find a lead on one that nobody else wants. (My mother wants one--she missed the one I took when I left home.)
June '04, Brad Shutes writes:
My speak-easy has been waking me since high school. It works perfectly, but you practically have to stand on the buttons to get them to react. I've even written an email to Timex. They sent a reply for some repair shop that didn't respond to a subsequent inquiry. Any luck finding someone who repairs these awesome clocks?

I think a person could make a bundle if the original plastic mold tooling could be relocated. Modernize them with the latest atomic clock technology, but keep the voice and automatic 9 minute snooze. That's my favorite part of this clock, and I can't live without it. It's so comforting to know that when the alarm clock goes off it will silence itself after 10 beeps. Then, 9 minutes later it sounds the alarm again. 18 minutes later it alarms non-stop 'till you turn it off. Have you ever found another clock since then that does the same thing? Nope!

My Speak-easy is still working. But, it's on its last leg. One of these days its just gonna die and I'm going to be very sad. No matter what, I'll be selling what remains on ebay cuz someone might be able to collect enough parts to put together a fully functioning unit.
October '04, Simon Pontin writes:
I was pleased to come across your 'favorite alarm clock,' the Speak-easy. I've had one since I paid $25 for it in the 1980s. I work at a radio station six days a week and it has awakened me each of those days. The LED is getting squirelly after all this time so I was looking to see if there was secret stash of NOS units on the internet. Apparently not, so I'll just supplement the voice (which works fine) with another LED clock. I love my clock and it's given yeoman service. Too bad Timex doesn't support it, or, better yet, start making it again. I haven't found an alarm clock that is any better!
I just checked mine in November 04 - still talks if I don't switch on an alarm or auto talk! think what we need are schematics - anyone out there have them?
May '05, Doug Harris writes:
I bought my Speak Easy when I was a sophmore in college in 1984 at the local Wal-mart in Springfield, MO. It wakes me up every morning and is in perfect condition. I was just trying to find one for a back-up in case mine ever fails. It's the best alarm clock on the planet. Maybe someone should contact Timex and see if there interested in remanufacturing them under their retro line. Anyway, thanks for the web page.
March '06, Michale Farrar writes:
I just had to write after reading the notes on your web page about your favorite clock. I too, am the proud owner of one of the original Timex speak easy clocks. I bought mine the first year they came out in a Corvallis, Oregon at the Fred Meyer there. That was almost thirty years ago! My clock has been with me every step of the way. And despite all my moves, falling off the night stand and such, it is in perfect mint condition. I have never had an issue with it. The voice still sounds the same as it did when I bought it. I have always feared the day that my poor old clock will die, but as Timex used to say "it take a licking, but keeps on ticking" My Speak Easy is proof positive to this jingle. My favorite feature of this clock is the fact I do not have to hit the snooze button!
July '06, Kevin Platt writes:
I have decided sell my Grandmother's Speak-easy. After doing the research for the description and learning how great the clock is, I'm getting cold feet! [I'm] originally from Waterbury, CT - home of Timex (as was Grandma)
Opening bid was $9.99 for what was said to be a 100% working clock. A week later, after 6 bids, it sold for a low $32.68.
August '06, Simon Pontin writes again:
Since the heat wave, my clock's LEDs are working and all segments are lighting up OK. Make we should occasionally bake the clock at 100 degrees?!
Unfortunately, before I could try my own heat wave experiments, Simon's clock reverted to fading segments.

November '06, Corey Kreisher writes:
I ran across your page while searching for information about my speak-easy clock, which I've just purchased. I'm having a problem and I hope you might be able to answer a question for me. The alarm on my clock goes off briefly then stops the first time it rings - then goes off again for a longer period after 10 minutes and then rings (or speaks) continuously after 20 minutes. Do you know if it's possible to have it go off continuously the first time it rings?
June '07, John Bibber gives me a clock!
That's right, one came up on eBay but was not identified as a Speak Easy, so Lincoln Highway friend John Bibber bid and win it for about $8 and sent it to me! Voice works perfectly but the Bong-Bong alarm is more like a Beep-Beep. Has it changed? Ow were others made that way. Next web update, I'll try to upload the sounds. Meanwhile, write and tell me how yours sounds.

Janurary '08, Directions manual now online:
I find the little directions manual to my original clock and scan it, but don't immediately upload it. Coincidentally, within 24 hours, Bill Wray of San Francisco e-mails scans of HIS directions - none for 20 years, and now 2 within a day! (Bill says of his Speak-Easy, "I still wake up with mine every morning. After 25 years is still works great.") His directions are black on white, so I think he reversed them for readability. Here are my scans, in original white text on black background: SIDE 1 and SIDE 2.
February '08, G. Bruce Rodgers needs help with a non-speaking Speak Easy:
My "emo/vintage-loving" son bought it about a year ago on ebay, gave it to his girlfriend, but she did not really take a liking to it. (She much preferred the Westclox "Moonbeam" ) So, I bought it from him, and have been enjoying the "War Games" Joshua-esque voice ("Greetings, Professor Falken..." ;-).
That is, until about 3 weeks ago, when mysteriously, my Speak-easy stopped speaking. :-(   No matter what sequence of buttons I push, no voice.
I have been looking around for info/schematics, etc. but to no avail. Then last nite, I finally sat down to figure out how to get the blasted case open. After finally figuring out the secret (removing the black faceplate, revealing the 4 screws that hold the 2 half-shells together), I got the clock case open.    Really, I'm not sure why I even wanted to, as I was virtually certain that the contents would be 100% solid state chips, boards, etc - and therefore basically irreparable by a software guy like myself.   I did manage to snap a few photos of the contents, enough to discover that the voice/speech chip is the early  Texas Instruments TMS5100 - ca. 1978-1981 or so.
Do you know of ANYthing that I can do? The majority of the problems that Speak-easy owners have encountered have been regarding the display, but mine is just fine, as is the light-sensor (auto-dims the numerals). Is it possible/likely that speech synthesizer chips just "go bad"?
I can't give up on this one; my Casio FX-1 Nixie calculator (16-second cube roots!) will feel lonely!

July '09, Just as I was wondering where all the Speak-Easy fans had gone, this letter arrived from Sande Nissen:

I was happy to find your homage to the Timex Speak-easy alarm clock. I bought mine between 1978 and 1985 in a drug store in Columbus, Ohio, on a whim. I had no idea what an important part of my life it would become. I’ve always been hard to awaken in the mornings, and no clock has ever worked like the Speak-easy. Something about that male voice, getting more stern with each snooze, gets through to me like nothing else can. By the second alarm sequence, a half hour after the first, I’m always awakening.
Like other fans at this site, my Speak-easy is finally showing signs of failing, after almost 30 years.  The alarm, voice, and buttons are fine, but the LEDs are flickering and the BAT low battery light never goes out. (Electrical problem. maybe.) Most of your audience talks about repairing their clocks, but I have a different interest. So I want to ask your audience: when your Speak-easy finally quit, what did you replace it with?
My requirements are pretty basic: a digital clock that runs on AC power, where the alarm is a voice announcing the time, with delayed snooze alarms also using a voice, and a second alarm sequence working the same way. I’d like large red numerals, but can do with less.  I’d like battery backup too, but can work around that problem. I don’t need any other kind of sound options for the alarm, or any radio, or anything else. Has anyone found a clock like that they are happy with?  If you’re willing to publish this message on your Web site, Brian, feel free to publish my E-mail address as “snissen AT”. If I hear from a number of your readers, I’ll willing to summarize their responses back to you for publication.  Thanks for listening.


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