How do you wake up in the morning? Ideally, most people would like to be gently woken by a gradual increase of light accompanied by the increasing volume of chirping birds. That may sound peaceful, however as we stay up later and have lives not based on the sun's rise, waking up can be challenge.
An early method was to merely drink a lot of water before you went to bed. You would naturally wake up early to use the bathroom.
The next method also involved water. An Egyptian inventor attached a bobber to a water clock in 245 BC. The water clock was a vessel filled with water which would gradually drain its contents at a controlled rate. When the water level reached a designated level, an alarm would sound.
A Syrian inventor drilled holes in the face of a clock and would insert pegs which would be struck by the hands of the clock to set off an alarm in 1555.
A Levi Hutchins of New Hampshire invented a mechanical alarm clock in 1787. It was only for his own use and was not adjustable. It always went off a 4:00 am, so he could get to work on time. A humorous story of dubious truthfulness is that Levi was murdered by his wife one morning at 4:05. Records show that Levi lived until he was 94, so that story seems to be false.
With the rise of the industrial revolution, factory whistles would wake residents near the factory to get to work on time in the 1850's. By 1876, Seth Thomas invents adjustable mechanical clock which we are familiar with.
On this date in 1882 a Samuel Applegate was getting his idea patented for a wood block alarm clock. He argued that you would become accustomed to the sound of a regular alarm clock and be able to sleep through it. His improvement on the idea was to attach an alarm clock to a net filled with wooden blocks (preferably of cork) dangling above your head (see illustration). At the selected time a hook would release the wood blocks to tumble down on your head. Sales were disappointing.
Radio alarm clocks were invented by a James Reynolds in the 1940's. It took nearly two more decades for the snooze button to be invented. We now have all sorts of digital devices to wake us up, including lights which gradually and gently go to full brightness and music which does the same at the appointed hour. Even with centuries of inventions, many of us still have a hard time getting to work on time.