You can still call a phone number and be told the time by the U.S. Naval Observatory

Originally published at: You can still call a phone number and be told the time by the U.S. Naval Observatory | Boing Boing


Master Clock,“Eight Bells, it be, shipmate; and cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey, yarrr!”


Before all these fancy computing machines, we used to wait for the National Research Council official time signal at 13:00 EST.

“One of the first announcers of what was then the Dominion Observatory Time Signal on CBC was Lorne Greene, while he was a staff announcer at CBO.”

At other times, there are two numbers you can call, one for English and one for French. Long distance charges may apply.


Or drive by the USNO clock on Mass Ave…



In the UK you dial 123. Very handy if you need to test your phone line.


This concept is familiar if you grew up in the US during the first 90 years of the 20th century. And apparently, a few local numbers still exist.

Growing up in rural Alabama, I remember calling our local time and temperature number…on a party line (every now and then you’d pick up the phone in the middle of some other household’s conversation. It was a VERY different time.)


And if hearing a spoken rendition of accurate time is your deepest desire let it not be forgot that despite recent efforts (~2018) to defund it the spoken time (and solar interference announcements) shortwave stations WWV (various locations) ‘live’ on!

Frequency (MHz) Latitude Longitude
2.5 40° 40’ 55.2 N 105° 02’ 31.3 W
5 40° 40’ 42.1 N 105° 02’ 24.9 W
10 40° 40’ 47.8 N 105° 02’ 25.1 W
15 40° 40’ 45.0 N 105° 02’ 24.5 W
20 40° 40’ 53.1 N 105° 02’ 28.5 W

(and they’re working on a 25MHz station …sqwee!)
serious nerds of a shortwave bent (“bent what?”) can adjust their cheap Casio_s with just a twist of the shortwave dial. (one link)


“For a good time, call 202-762-1401”

Best bathroom graffitti ever.


303-499-7111 WWV land line, Bolder CO.

It’s just not the same. Please bring back “At the tone the time will be 5:15 AM and 50 seconds.”

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