Searching through the archives here I see that I haven’t related the backstory behind a comment I make from time to time in conversation. I joke about setting my “thousand dollar alarm clock,” and most people shrug it off as just another weird thing Karel says.

But I’m not actually joking. My alarm clock cost $1000… after upgrades. I didn’t pay for it, of course.

The HP 620lx “palmtop” computer hit the market in 1998. I was the newly-appointed, albeit still-part-time, wrangler of all things computerized for Entercom Portland. We were just beginning a wave of hardware purchases and expansions that would see us, eventually, in a new building and three major expansions projects thereof. At the time, however, my boss decided that I should have a PDA of some sort. After a bit of research I settled on the 620lx. Color screen! PCMCIA slot! Infrared! Windows CE 2.0! (I didn’t realize at the time that banking on a nearly-new Microsoft OS is a foolhardy endeavor at the best of times. I was young and new to the gig; cut me some slack!) Price tag, with extra-life battery: $850.

A few months later HP released an upgrade to Windows CE 2.1 but you had to buy a ROM chip rig to get it. Another $150 later, and the machine was just a bit more useful than before… which is to say, sadly, still not all that much.

(My friend Ben got his hands on one of the successors to the 620lx a few months later. Known as the “Jornada” something-or-other, it featured a big touch screen but only a tiny bit more processing power and memory capacity. Neat toy, ultimately useless.)

Over time, the HP “palmtoy” simply didn’t work out for anything more useful than taking notes in meetings, scoring family Scrabble games (oddly enough, I did recently use it to score a game with the kids… Pocket Excel to the rescue, saving us all from my sloppy penmanship and questionable math skills…), and as an alarm clock. Here it is, shortly after once again performing its primary function over the past decade:

Hey, it has five programmable alarm options! This means that I can switch between my two different wake-up times (“Am I riding public transit or carpooling tomorrow?”) and have custom alarm times for special events.

Yes. I know. There’s another clock sitting right next to the really expensive one. The Totoro Clock is used for actual checking of the current time, not for alarms. Would you want to wake up every morning to a strident, chirpy rendition of the “My Neighbor Totoro” theme song?

I didn’t think so.