A Time Tracking Timeline: How Far Time Tracking Has Come


Think time tracking is a relatively new phenomenon? Think again. Humans have been tracking time for thousands of years — and they haven’t always had such an easy go of it.

Ancient Egyptians used water clocks (an early type of hourglass that used water rather than sand) to track their hours — meanwhile, in China, candle clocks were used to mark the passage of time. (Imagine handing in a used candle stump at the end of your shift each day… no, thank you.)

Then, of course, you have your sundials — which required, well, sun… but also frequent recalibration as the seasons changed. (Not a very reliable mode of time tracking.)

Mechanical clocks (those powered by springs rather than water or sunlight) weren’t invented until the start of the 14th century — and they were replaced by pendulum clocks less than one century later.


The pocket watch made its first appearance in the early 17th century — and a more accurate version of the pocket watch was released more than 50 years after that. (If you think your watch being off by a minute or two is annoying, imagine living in the 1850s.)

Time books (books in which workers recorded their, you guessed it, time) emerged in the 19th century — they were managed and maintained by a “timekeeper” (or foreman — the person responsible for collecting and recording workers’ times) and “bookkeeper” (the person in charge keeping the time books). (Hey bookkeepers, did you know your title had such historical origins?)


As for time clocks, the first official employee time clock was invented in 1888 by a jeweler in New York. It was primarily used to ensure that bus drivers weren’t departing from their terminals before the due time — but it soon gained popularity in factories and shops. Employees were given their own time card and required to punch in/out at the beginning and end of their shift. From there, their time records would be manually compiled at the end of the pay period. (Starting to sound familiar?)


Let’s fast forward a bit. The year is 2006, and budding entrepreneur Matt Rissell discovers his most loyal employee milking the clock by about 15 minutes each day. The resulting solution is TSheets — automated, accurate-to-the-second, mobile time tracking that employees love and love to use!

But remember, this was 2006 — back when “the cloud” was still just a white, fluffy thing in the sky. TSheets started out as nothing more than a basic timer — but it did a great job of tracking accurate employee time and, after just a few weeks, it saved Matt thousands of dollars on payroll. The iPhone app (the first of it’s kind, we might add) wasn’t released until 2008 — and the Android app soon after that. TSheets only gained momentum from there.

Today, employees can quickly and easily track time anytime, anywhere, and on any device. TSheets stores that time data safely and securely in the cloud — so it can’t be lost, misplaced, or scrawled on the side of a paper cup (hey, we’ve heard stories). At the end of the pay period, employees are prompted to submit their time (which they can do right from their mobile phones). Admins can then review and approve employee time in mere minutes — saving them hours (if not days) each month.


And because TSheets integrates seamlessly (and we mean seamlessly) with your favorite payroll processing software (Intuit, Gusto, and Xero — to name a few), processing payroll is as easy as just one click. No more manual data entry, no more misinterpreting paper time cards, and no more lost time sheets.

Check out our app marketplace to learn more!

TSheets will even alert your employees to clock in, clock out, or take a very important break, and it helps curb overtime by reminding employees to clock out before they cross 40 hours (a handy tool when it comes to FLSA compliance).

TSheets Scheduling (released just this year, in 2016) makes creating, sharing, and updating the weekly schedule easy. It minimizes missed shifts and late clock-ins by reminding employees of an upcoming scheduled shift. It eliminates the old “I lost my schedule” excuse and helps prevent employees from misinterpreting their start time. Best of all, it works hand-in-hand with TSheets time tracking.


Now that’s time tracking innovation.

Yes, time tracking has come a long way since ancient Egypt — and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store! (Hint: It’s some really exciting stuff).

Click here to learn more about TSheets’ innovative features. Then, give TSheets a try for FREE for 14-days — you’re going to like the way you track time.

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  1. tushar says:

    Hi, thank you for this post I agree with you that Ancient Egyptians used water clocks (an early type of hourglass that used water rather than sand) to track their hours — meanwhile, in China, candle clocks were used to mark the passage of time. very useful information


  2. […] your employee’s time hasn’t always been easy. But it’s 2017, folks. The technology is here … and it’s […]

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