Ever since 1953, Australians desiring an accurate reading of the time have been able to dial four digits on their nearest telephone and have it read to them.
Far more convenient means of finding the time have emerged in the 66 years since, but the ‘talking clock’ accessed by dialling 1194 has still been chugging along – for those who prefer a timekeeping experience only mildly less analog than reading a sundial or conferring with celestial spirits.
But today, September 30, is the last day of operation for the talking clock – or ‘George’, as it is more affectionately known. From October 1, you’re doomed to never know the time unless you look at your phone, watch, or a nearby clock.
First reported by the Sydney Morning Herald back in April, the clock – painstakingly recorded in the dulcet tones of ABC broadcaster Richard Peach – will be shut down as it is no longer compatible with new network technologies.
Speaking to the SMH, a Telstra spokesperson explained the difficulty. “It’s like any time you upgrade to radically new technology, sometimes older services wouldn’t work.
“[As] with software, [it’s like] you’re trying to use Microsoft Word 95 with the latest operating system, Windows 10.”
Though Telstra operates the billing and network for the talking clock, the actual service is provided by Melbourne-based company Informatel. The executive chairman, Dennis Benjamin, told the SMH there is still “great demand” for the clock, and that he hoped it would continue.
Benjamin also told the paper that the service receives about two million inquiries a year, which is mind-blowing when you think about it.
If you can’t be bothered making the last call tonight, then you’ll be pleased to know that Nine News tonight released a news retrospective on the clock – including a recording from both Richard Peach and the clock’s original speaker, theatre critic Gordon Gow. Bask in the retro glow.
But if you do want to make the call: it’s 1194. Go on.