Orange announces the end of the speaking clock after 89 years of career

It’s the end of an era and a feature launched in 1933. Indeed, Orange announces this Wednesday, May 4, 2022 the removal of the speaking clock from July 1, 2022. This automated system made it possible to know the time exact in France by calling the paying number 3699.

Credits: Unsplash

As Charles Aznavour said, this is a service that “those under 20 cannot know”. Since 1933, the French wishing to know the exact time in France could resort to the speaking clock, the very first automated system of its kind in the world. This system, invented by astronomer and director of the Paris Observatory Ernest Esclangon in 1933, was part of “of French industrial heritage” as Orange reminds us.

In 1991, the Paris Observatory had signed a partnership with France Telecom (now Orange) for the construction of a specific infrastructure to enable French people to obtain legal time in France with extreme precision, of the order of 10 milliseconds. Today, the Speaking Clock operates “Coordinated Universal Time” provided by the Paris Observatory, a result obtained via a set of atomic clocks from the Sirte laboratory, as our colleagues from the World.

At the beginning of the 2000’s, calls to 3699, the paying number to access the service, numbered in the millions each year, with logical peaks during time changes. “Today, in terms of calls to the speaking clock, we are more on the tens of thousands per year”, indicates the operator in its press release.

orange speaking clock
Credits: The first speaking clock / National Library of France

To read also: Orange hastens the abandonment of the ADSL copper network, it’s the end!

End clap for the speaking clock after 89 years of career

As you can imagine, with the democratization of smartphones, tablets, and all electronic devices capable of displaying the time with precision, keeping the speaking clock active no longer really makes sense. Fact, Orange confirmed this Wednesday, May 4, 2022 the stopping of the speaking clock from July 1, 2022due to “scheduled end of life” systems essential to its operation and above all to the massive drop in the number of calls to 3699. It must be said that the rates were rather high, with a price fixed at €1.50 plus the price of the call.

The digitization of equipment, the multiplication of sources that can give the time, mobiles, computers, tablets, inevitably contribute to this erosion”. Orange justifies itself. So it’s the end of an era. Note, however, that it is always possible to access the exact French legal time free of charge from Paris Observatory website. As a reminder, Orange recently announced the closure of its 2G network, but also that of the copper network by 2030.

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