Braille Monitor January 1986
by W. Harold Bleakley
For the last six years or so, the availability of talking clocks has been an on-again, off-again situation. First, Sharp came out with the hand-held Talking Time I--in our judgment, the best hand-held talking clock ever made. Then, Panasonic, Casio, Howard Miller, and even Radio Shack and Seiko got into the portable talking clock business. Spartus introduced its now famous plug in talking, chiming clock and its little brother, the Electronic Talking Clock. Radio Shack also offered a plug-in talking clock. For a while it seemed that blind persons would have a lot of talking clock options. Panasonic even came out with a plug-in talking clock radio.
But then, the whole thing deteriorated rapidly. Sharp discontinued the Talking Time I, introduced the Talking Time II, and then stopped making both. Panasonic, Howard Miller, and Casio stopped making talking clocks. In January of 1985 Spartus discontinued the manufacture of the talking, chiming clock. We called the manufacturers to find out what was going on. This is when we learned the hard truth. None of these companies had manufactured talking clocks specifically for people who are blind. They made them for the general public, and the general public was not willing to pay the prices being asked for talking clocks. So the clockmakers quit making talking clocks. It seemed that talking clocks were gone, never to return.
However, the talking clock situation is on again. Sharp was persuaded to make a limited quantity of the original Talking Time I. The National Federation of the Blind and some other organizations have it for sale (or, at least, should have by the time this article reaches you). The hand-held TTQ Slimline talking clock came on the market in the summer of 1985. The NFB and Aids Unlimited have the TTQ. It is probably also available from other sources. Last fall another hand-held talking clock came on the market--the Omni Talking Time Quartz. It is the smallest handheld talking clock ever made. It uses the Sharp Talking Time I chip--the same voice, alarm melody, etc. The NFB and Aids Unlimited also carry the Omni. The Spartus Electronic Talking Clock and the Panasonic talking clock radio have not been discontinued, at least not yet.
In view of the on-again, off-again history of the talking clocks, it is impossible to predict how long any of the talking clocks now available will remain on the market. They're here today, but they may be gone tomorrow. The underlying cause for the on-again, off-again nature of the product has not changed. Manufacturers still make talking clocks for the general public--not for people who are blind. For further information, contact W. Harold Bleakley, President, Aids Unlimited, 1101 North Calvert Street, #1901, Baltimore, Maryland 21202; (301) 659-0232.