Time clock

Time clock
Early 20th century time clock made by IBM. The face shows employee numbers which would be dialed up by employees entering and leaving the factory. The day and time of entry and exit was punched onto cards inside the box

A time clock, sometimes known as a clock card machine or punch clock or time recorder, is a mechanical (or electronic) timepiece used to assist in tracking the hours an employee of a company worked. In regards to mechanical time clocks this was accomplished by inserting a heavy paper card, called a timesheet, into a slot on the time clock. When the time card hit a contact at the rear of the slot, the machine would print day and time information on the card. This allowed a timekeeper to have an official record of the hours an employee worked to calculate and pay an employee.



Time clock, made by National Time Recorder Co. Ltd. of Blackfriars, London at Wookey Hole Caves museum
A Bundy Clock used by Birmingham City Transport to ensure that bus drivers did not depart from outlying termini before the due time; now preserved at Walsall Arboretum
contactless magnetic time clock card
Electronic time clock

The first time clock was invented on November 20, 1888, by Willard Bundy, a jeweler in Auburn, New York. A year later his brother, Harlow Bundy, organized the Bundy Manufacturing Company,[1] and began mass producing time clocks. Bundy Manufacturing, along with two other time equipment businesses, was consolidated into the International Time Recording Company (ITR).[2][3] In 1911, ITR and two other companies were merged, forming Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation (CTR), which would later change its name to IBM. In 1958, IBM's Time Equipment Division was sold to the Simplex Time Recorder Company. However in the United Kingdom ITR (A subsidiary of IBM United Kingdom Ltd.) was the subject of a Management Buy Out in 1963 and reverted to International Time Recorders. In 1982, International Time Recorders was acquired by Blick Industries of Swindon, England, who were themselves later absorbed by Stanley Security Systems.

The time cards usually had the workdays and time in and time out areas marked on them so that employees could "punch in" or "punch out" in the correct place. The employee was responsible to line up the correct area of the card to be punched with an indicator on the time card. Software applications offer such a system.

The first punched-card system to be linked to a Z80 microprocessor was developed by Kronos Incorporated in the late 1970s and introduced as a product in 1979.

There are two different types of time cards conventionally used with a manual time clock, clipper and punch hole cards. There are also variations based on manufacture and machine used, and whether the user wants to record weekly or monthly recordings. Typically time cards are divided into sections for time and day stamping. More advanced time clocks require more advanced cards.

Although there are many brands and variations of time clocks, it’s noted that there are 4 key variations of time clocks, basic, self calculating, time and date stamps and software based time and attendance systems.

A basic time clock will just stamp the date and time, on a time card. It may feature a bell or signal relay to signal a certain time or break. These will usually be activated by a button that a worker must press to stamp their card. Although an effective method of recording time these types of machine are flawed and common issues include overs tamping – where one time is stamped over another, and buddy stamping – where a friend clocks in another member of staff. A basic clock can range in functionality with more features on higher end machines or more industrial uses.

Self-calculating machines are similar to basic time clocks, however at the end of each period the total time recorded is added up allowing for quicker processing by HR or payroll. These machines sometimes have other functions such as automatic stamping, dual colour printing and automated column shift.

A time and date stamp is not designed to record time and attendance, instead it stamps the current date and time onto paper, and these are heavily used in financial and law sectors.

Software based time and attendance systems are similar to a paper based systems, however they rely on computers and check in terminals. They are backed up with powerful software that can be integrated with a firms HR department and in some cases payroll software. These types of system are becoming more popular however due to initial cost they are only adopted by large business of over 30 employees. Despite this they can save a business thousands of pounds a year by cutting down errors and reducing administration time.

In recent times, time clocks started to move away from the mechanical machines to computer based, electronic time and attendance systems. The employee either swipes a magnetic stripe card, brings an RFID tag into proximity with a reader, enters an employee number or uses a biometric reader to identify the employee to the system. These systems are much more advanced than the mechanical time clock, various reports can be generated, including European working time directive, and a Bradford factor report. Employees can also request holidays, enter in absenteeism requests and view their worked hours.


Biometric time clocks are a feature of more advanced time and attendance systems. Rather than using a key, code or chip to identify the user, they rely on a unique attribute of the user, such as a hand print, finger print, finger vein, palm vein, facial recognition, iris or retina. The user will have their attribute scanned into the system. Biometric readers are often used in conjunction with an access control system, granting the user access to a building, and at the same time clocking them in recording the time and date. These systems also attempt to cut down on fraud such a buddy punching. When combined with an access control system they can help prevent other types of fraud such as ghost employees where employees are actually at work to clock in but then leave for the day only to return after their shift to clock out.

See also


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • time clock — ˈtime clock noun [countable] HUMAN RESOURCES a clock, often connected to a computer, that records the exact time that someone arrives at and leaves work * * * time clock UK US noun [C] HR, WORKPLACE ► a machine, sometimes connected to a computer …   Financial and business terms

  • time clock — time′ clock n. hor a clock with an attachment that records the exact time on a card or tape, used to keep a record of the time of something, as the arrival and departure of employees • Etymology: 1885–90, amer …   From formal English to slang

  • time clock — n a special clock that records the exact time when someone arrives at and leaves work …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • time clock — ☆ time clock n. a clock with a mechanism for recording on a timecard the time an employee begins and ends a work period …   English World dictionary

  • time clock — time ,clock noun count a piece of equipment that records what time people arrive at work and what time they leave …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • time clock — noun clock used to record the hours that people work (Freq. 1) • Hypernyms: ↑clock * * * noun : a clock with a device to record the times of arrival and departure of employees or the time at which a job is begun or completed compare telltale 3a * …   Useful english dictionary

  • time clock — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms time clock : singular time clock plural time clocks a piece of equipment that records what time people arrive at work and what time they leave …   English dictionary

  • time clock — n. to punch a time clock …   Combinatory dictionary

  • time clock — clock with records when a worker arrives to and leaves from work …   English contemporary dictionary

  • time clock — a clock with an attachment that may be manually activated to stamp or otherwise record the exact time on a card or tape, used to keep a record of the time of something, as of the arrival and departure of employees. [1885 90, Amer.] * * * …   Universalium

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