How many times have you wished you could have something just speak the time of day? Well with just a more work with Flite, a talking clock is yours.

The Unix/Linux date command provides a near infinite amount of flexibility in providing the date and time.  date --help lists all the available options.  Here are some handy formatting for date that work well spoken:

date +%T                  the time in hh:mm:ss format
date +%H:%M           the time in hour and minute (24 hour time)
date "+%I:%M %P"  the time in hour and minute with AM or PM at the end

date +%D    the date in mm/dd/yy format
date "+%A %B %d %Y"  the date like Sunday January 23 2016
date "+%A %d %B %Y"  the date like Sunday 23 January 2016

So take your favorites and you can add the commands to a shell script or python program like we did in the previous page:

date "+%H:%M %P" | flite                             (for just a clock)
date "+%H:%M %P %A %d %B %Y" | flite    (adds the date)

Clock Accuracy

There are some options.  If your Raspberry Pi is connected to the Internet, the operating system (Raspbian) gets the time from the Internet from a Network Time Protocol (NTP) server.  So you have a good time sync, accurate within a second or two. The Pi does not have a battery backed real-time clock (RTC) to keep time in case it is not connected to the Internet or if it loses power and does not have an Internet connection.  Several third-party add-on boards (sometimes called HATS) provide a hardware RTC that will keep very accurate time, sometimes even temperature compensated.  Finally, a GPS receiver can not only provide position data, but a GPS connected board can get the atomic accurate time from satellites as well.  GPS is not often used for time as it is more expensive and less common.

Add a Button

Reading the time of day in a loop is rather tiring. We need a trigger to read the time when an event happens.  

The Fritzing diagram for the button connected to the Pi:

Python Code

The code to check the switch in a loop and say the time if the button is pressed:

import time
import os
import board
import digitalio

button = digitalio.DigitalInOut(board.D18)
button.direction = digitalio.Direction.INPUT
button.pull = digitalio.Pull.UP

while True:

    if not button.value:
        os.system("date '+%I:%M %P' | festival --tts")

    # slight pause to debounce

We can easily copy this code onto our Pi using the 'wget' command and run it using the following python syntax.

Download: file
sudo python3 ./

And here it is in action:

This guide was first published on Feb 01, 2016. It was last updated on Feb 01, 2016.

This page (Talking Clock) was last updated on Jan 15, 2021.