Here’s a neat little electronic find from this past weekend. I normally don’t go in for old alarm clocks when I’m out thrifting, because really, they’re a dime-a-dozen, and while some may be interesting to look at, rarely do they have that extra ‘oomph’ to push them into the “ah gotsta buy dis” category for me.
Our subject today, however, is a big time exception to all that. That’s why we’re here right now, after all! Plus, I can find very little info on it out there in internet-land, and thus it’s my duty to inform, educate, and
annoy entertain on the subject.
Behold: it’s the Spartus AVT Audio Visual Time alarm clock, model number 1410, from, near as I can tell, 1982 (there’s no date listed, but what info I’ve found online tells me it originally came out in ’82). Spartus made more than a few alarm clocks back in the day, often with something cool to make them stand out, either feature-wise or aesthetic-wise, and this piece here ably hits both of those marks.
Indeed, I was enamored by the AVT as soon as my eyes fell upon it, and despite a failed attempt at putting it back and going on without it, I just couldn’t resist – despite the relatively-hefty $6 price tag. (A 35% off coupon helped ease that blow, however.)
That cool brushed metal (aluminum?) face plate, the woodgrain sides, it’s almost like a meeting of 1970s and 1980s sensibilities, even though it’s probably not and I’m a dolt for even mentioning it. It looks cool, okay?
And since red is my favorite color, the red LED display is enormously appealing to yours truly. Don’t let the picture above fool you; my phone’s flash makes it look dimmer than it is (it was either a pic with flash and sharp focus, or none and, uh, not), but the red LED is pretty bright. It’s actually so bright that when it’s turned up all the way, there’s an audible buzzing! (Hope that’s not a bad sign of anything!)
So that’s all well and good, but there was a more substantial factor in the AVT coming home with me, and the clue is in the name: the “Visual” and “Time” portions are self-explanatory, but it’s the “Audio” bit that figuratively raised my eyebrows. That’s right, this thing talks!
I always like it when a vintage piece of technology tries to go the extra mile and stand out with a quirky gimmick, and if the AVT doesn’t qualify, what does?
I could attempt to explain it in words, but since this is for informational purposes, I’d think a short demonstrative video of the AVT in “action” should fall under fair use okay…
THE FUTURE IS NOW!
And it doesn’t just tell you the time, either! It can also audibly inform you of the date, what time your alarm is set for, and maybe some other things I ain’t even figured out yet! I’m not sure if you can tell from my sad video demonstration here, but the volume is pretty crisp and clear, especially considering this was early-1980s technology.
(Also, hope you enjoyed my shaky camerawork and puke-green carpet!)
Underneath a smoked-plastic cover resides all of your clock-settin’ options – literally at your fingertips! I had to really press to get the hour/minutes to register, but since this is over 30 years old and (I presume) well-used, I’m not complaining. The volume toggle is self-explanatory, and the dimmer is handy; there’s only the two settings, but even on the lower one, it’s nice and easily-discernible.
On the bottom of the unit is a handy instructional sticker, though as per my usual MO, I didn’t really bother paying attention to it when it came time for testing. Typical me.
Also, notice the battery compartment here. (If you scroll back to the previous picture, you’ll also see the “battery test” button on the panel.) The AVT can use a single 9 volt battery for backup purposes should the electricity cut out. It’s not mandatory to have one, but probably a good idea if you were to keep this in use all the time. There was actually a battery still in this thing when I found it, though perhaps amazingly, it had not leaked or corroded in the slightest. Maybe the original owner continued using this clock until only recently?
I couldn’t find much about the AVT online. Google gave me a couple old newspaper advertisement scans, but I couldn’t really see them unless I registered to the respective sites, which I wasn’t prepared to do. Nothing turned up on eBay either; oh sure, tons and tons of vintage Spartus alarm clocks, many of them very cool, but I scrolled through ’em all and there wasn’t a single listing for the AVT – current or completed!
I only found two real pieces of online information regarding the unit: this page regarding the original trademark and its filing date and all that. But more importantly, I found this page on the official Farm Magazine website, which has actually preserved their original 1982 entry for the AVT! Cool! This is wildly important, not only because of a better description of the features present, but also because it presents the original suggested retail price of $37.25.
Usually I’d make an exaggerated inflation joke here, but I actually looked it up: in today’s dollars, this thing would be over 90 bucks! Whoa! So would an alarm clock that cost $37.25 back then be considered “high end?” Maybe the price was too prohibitive and that’s why I can’t find any for sale online right now?
Here’s a final “straight ahead” shot of the clock. My flash gave a cool reflective effect off the metal face plate, though it also made the two ‘main’ buttons hard to discern. On the left is your typical snooze button that also doubles as your calendar; press it and it tells you the month and day. And on the right, you’ve got the “time” button, which I’ve already shown you in action.
My only disappointment, and this is really pretty mild, is that they weren’t somehow able to fit an AM/FM radio into this unit. BUT, that might have ruined the compact, elegant, relatively-simple design the AVT displays, so it’s actually not a big deal.
As I said at the start of this article, I’m not much of an alarm clock collector. But you know what? The Spartus AVT certainly threatens to make me one! Forget the lack of radio; I love everything about this one. The design, the color scheme, the fact it talks to me, all of it.
Suddenly, $6 doesn’t seem like that high of a price tag anymore…