Guide to Radio-Controlled, Atomic Clocks
Early atomic clocks were actually masers with equipment attached. The first accurate atomic clock was built in London in 1955, by a man named Louis Essen. Following the building of this clock, it was internationally agreed that the definition of the second was based on atomic time.
So, how exactly does an atomic clock work? The atomic clock's core is comprised of a microwave cavity. Inside this cavity is ionized gas, a radio oscillator, and a feedback loop. The feedback loop is used to adjust the oscillator. The oscillator must be adjusted to the frequency of the absorption characteristic defined by the individual atoms' behavior.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology, based in Boulder, Colorado, operates an atomic clock and broadcasts the standard time on radio station WWVB, at a frequency of 60 kHz. Radio controlled clocks periodically receive this 60 kHz radio signal to synchronize their time with the NIST atomic clock.
If you wish to access the atomic clock on your personal computer, via the Internet, Atom Time is a desktop Windows application that connects to the Atomic Clock time server computer and fetches the current time value. It compares your PC time to this value and displays the difference.
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Atomic Clocks - Radio Controlled Clocks