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What Is a Digital Time Clock?

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  • Written By: M. McGee
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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A digital time clock is a method used by businesses to accurately track when an employee arrives and leaves. These systems are a modern replacement of the more common punch clocks. A digital time clock often works like a standard keypad; workers enter a personal identification number (PIN) when they come and when they go. The company will get reports from the clock using a computer-based system. This eliminates much of the clutter, inaccuracy and common problems of traditional clocks.

Traditional punch clocks were originally invented in the late 1800s and went into common use just after the turn of the century. The difference between early models and later forms basically boiled down to size and automation. The early clocks were large and complicated and required a worker to manually care for the clock mechanism. Later clocks were smaller, with self-winding or electronic clocks.

These clocks all work on the same fundamental principle. A worker has a slip called a time card and he places it into the machine when he arrives and when he leaves. The clock will punch holes in the slip corresponding to the time or punch an ink-based time-stamp onto the card in a specific spot. Later punch clocks would occasionally use a thermal system or a laser printer, but these were less common. Occasionally, often once per week, a person would collect the time cards and use them to determine payroll.

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A newer digital time clock does the same thing without the need for many of the steps. These clocks are completely electronic; they have digital clocks and internal storage for worker profiles. In order to use one of these machines, the worker will punch in a PIN that corresponds to his specific profile, eliminating the need for time cards. This profile will contain all of the information pertinent to the worker’s time usage. Some clocks will provide feedback if requested, giving the worker an exact tally of time spent working and some will even display available sick time, vacation days, upcoming shift schedules and so on.

The digital time clock will store the information until requested and then deliver it in one of two ways. Some models allow a secondary digital device to plug into the system. This device will download the data on the digital time clock onto the portable device so it can go to the central payroll system. Other clocks are plugged directly into the company’s network and give constant feedback to supervisors regarding who is working and how long they have been there.

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