Dead Ahead

UPDATED 01/16/1995 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 01/16/1995 at 01:00 AM EST

FORGET THE GRIM REAPER: DEATH has gone digital. A new timepiece called the Timisis LifeClock ticks off your remaining time on earth in hours, minutes, seconds and—let's be punctual about this—tenths of seconds. (No one likes a tardy corpse.)

The slightly morbid minds behind the clock belong to Chicagoans Charles "Chip" Altholz, 46, a talent manager, and Barry Faldner, 38, an orchestra conductor. In the 14 years since they met, they have worked on inventions as diverse as waterproof surgical bandages and a digital handgun safe. But it took another genius to lead them to the clock: Beethoven. "On his deathbed," claims Faldner, "he shook his fist at the heavens and said, 'I need more time.' "

Admittedly the clock's promise to tell you what your own ticker won't is based on optimistic life-span averages: 75 years for men, 80 years for women. Enter your age and sex, and the clock begins the countdown. So far the fauxmarble, pyramid-shaped desk clock has sold 33,000 at $99.95 a pop through the Sharper Image and 1-800-TIMISIS. The biggest challenge faced by LifeClock Corp. was getting one computer chip to tell time, scroll messages and count backward. Does an alarm go off at the end? "That's a trade secret," says Altholz. You can also program it to count down things like mortgage payments and kids' graduations.

If the passage of digital sand isn't sufficient motivation, the timepiece scrolls 164 aphorisms, staggered at one per minute, ranging from Eat your vegetables to You get what you ask for.

And oh yes, it also tells time. Tick, tick, tick, tick.

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