Demise of the Dial

Episode #775

December 9, 2023

I grew up with dials.
Rotary phones, volume knobs, speedometers, analog clocks and wiz wheels were everywhere.


A wheel for a dial was a natural evolution of sun dials, fibonacci moon phases and yoga Surya Namaskar (sun salutations).

A sundial is a kind of analog dial with the only moving part being the spinning of the earth. The earth spinning is the wheel engine of a sundial.


A fibonacci moon phase chart is a circle of the 28 moon phases. It includes paisley fibonacci shapes to calculate the rising, setting and the degree of waxing and waning of the moon.


A Surya Namaskar chart is a circle with the 12 sun salutation yoga postures. This dial is static, but shows the focus of each posture’s chakra (internal spinning wheels of energy) like the hours on the face of a clock.


Clocks evolved with a circular dial because a circle is an efficient and accurate way to measure time. A circle has a constant circumference. A line anchored in the center of a circle moves around through the circumference. It travels from each point to the next in the same amount of time.

Furthermore the symmetry of a circular clock face makes it easy to see the percentage of time elapsed. This is also apparent on my skydiving wrist altimeter.  The face of the altimeter is like a clock with 12,000 feet (normal exit altitude) at the 12 o’clock position. Each gradation indicates 1000 feet above the ground. During freefall, as the needle sweeps around toward zero I can judge my distance to the ground at a glance without having to read the altitude.

Wiz wheels were the predecessors of computers. They are a kind of circular slide rule designed for specialized calculations they are used in aviation, ballistics calculations and cryptography. The E6B aviation wiz wheel is a logarithmic slide rule that performs multiplication and division.

The E6B dial is a circle with unit names, such as miles, gallons, pounds, minutes, etc. Let’s say you wanted to calculate the amount of fuel for a 2.5 hour flight. Set the fixed ratio of pounds of fuel per hour, then move the time increment to 2.5 hours to read how many pounds of fuel you will consume in 2.5 hours.
On the back of the E6B you can calculate the effects of wind on the cruise portion of a flight.

Virtually all of these analog dials have been replaced by digital electronics. Clocks display time with digital numbers. Phones can be “dialed” by voice. Volume knobs are typically sliders, even when rendered in a music app. The speedometer on my RAV4 is a digital readout. Weirdly, there is a round speedometer dial rendered on the display right next to the numeric speed.


Some dials remain round. Circular electric light rheostat dials persist. They are more intuitive than moving a slider back and forth. Compasses tend to be round because as you turn your body so turns the needle on the compass, pointing the way. Other devices, such as my analogue altimeter feature a round display to show percentages of a situation at a glance. Dynamically changing gauges benefit from being round.


Some modern circular dials are preferred because of design and nostalgia. A grandfather clock looks odd with a digital face.

Smart watches can display the time in many different ways, but some prefer the analogue clock face because of familiarity or prestige.

It is sometimes easier to understand the message of a dial without having to read the display.

A 50 year perpetual calendar is circular, a conversation piece and fun to use.


I think of the human head as a kind of circular dial. Your neck is a gimbal that allows the head to measure the world vertically, horizontally and 180° around. Some, like Apple’s Vision Pro or Elon Musks Neuralink would seek to enhance this perception with VR goggles or brain chip implants. They are only enhancements on a perfect design.

Our primary instrument is still the Vitruvian human body, God’s own analog dial.

“Skydivers Know Why Birds Sing” by Ricki T Thues is now available on Amazon.
It is a Love story of Rick and Paula Thues and their 35 years of Skydiving.

Click HERE to buy the paperback or Kindle ebook at Amazon.

Follow Ricki T Thues on Amazon HERE.

“Technically Human” by Ricki T Thues, the iMentor, is available on Amazon.
It is a compilation of selected episodes from this bLog which tell the story of Humanity through the eyes of the iMentor.

Click HERE to buy the paperback or Kindle ebook at Amazon.
The ebook version of “Technically Human” is also available on Kobo. Click HERE.
For you Barnes and Noble Nook readers it is available for Nook. Click HERE.
The “Technically Human” ebook is also available on Apple Books . Click HERE.




  1. Victor Spindler December 9, 2023
  2. Carol+Ross December 9, 2023
  3. Danielle L BARLOW December 9, 2023

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