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Music To His Ears

By Betty Anders

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Most people abhor the dreaded signal of the alarm clock each morning, whether that reveille is a buzz, a beep or a popular tune. The process of pulling us out of our sweet slumber is usually a jolt.

Robbie Hanson shares this loathing of unpleasantness at the start of his day - but rather than endure the misery, he created an alarm clock to his personal specifications.

Hanson, a 2000 Quincy High School graduate and a graduate of the University of Missouri-Rolla, realized early in his college career that he had a knack for grasping the concepts of computer programming. So when his pain-in-the-neck wake-up device became unbearable, he devised a programmable alarm clock for his computer.

"I began coding the alarm clock my second year of college. I didn't have much programming experience, and development was slow," Hanson said.

After a year or two of sporadic tweaking, he created a product that suited his needs.

"I knew exactly what I wanted in an alarm clock," he said. "One, a setting that slowly increases the sound of the alarm to wake you up peacefully.
Two, configurable snooze duration. Three, the ability to wake to your favorite music or sounds of your choosing.

"No more beeping or buzzing for me."

The product's name is simply "Alarm Clock."

Hanson began utilizing his clock daily and as others saw it, they asked about it. After giving it to some friends, he finally posted it for download in late January.

"Any Mac user - anybody with a computer in the room - can use the clock,"
he said, noting that he has found the clock has "an extremely large audience."

The Web site,, receives more than 5,000 hits a day and has had more than 75,000 downloads. The download is free, "although I do accept PayPal donations," Hanson said.

Some who take advantage of the clock application also can explore Hanson's "Wish List" link. One day, United Parcel Service delivered a gift from - several books from Hanson's Amazon "Wish List."

The alarm clock runs only on Mac OS X and has been localized into a dozen languages.

"It's a little scary when there are some 50,000 people around the world relying on my software to wake them up in the morning," he said. "If I make a mistake, people could miss class or arrive late to work."

Hanson is working on his master's thesis, completing the coding of his own computer game (based on the game MasterMind) and working with a company to internationalize its Web site.

The Alarm Clock project has been fulfilling.

"It's the same feeling musicians have when they make songs and artists when they've finished a painting," he said.

"How many times have you tried to use a piece of technology that was so complicated to use that it was frustrating? It's my job to make software that's easy to use. Software that does what you want and doesn't require a physics degree from MIT to figure it out."

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