Inventor of Snooze Alarm Also Built a One-of-a-Kind Convertible

Dimond's car - a rare thing of beauty.

Herbert Dimond's car - a rare thing of beauty.

Editor’s note: This story appears in our August 2009 issue.

By Ken Gronbach

If ever there ever were a love/hate relationship, it’s with humans and the snooze alarm.

“Snooze alarm” is an oxymoron and the technology occupies a dubious position in our culture. Until the snooze alarm became part of the alarm clock in the 1950s, the transition from slumber to consciousness was a clean break. You were one or the other. Sure, sometimes you would sleep through your alarm, but that was still sleep. With a snooze alarm you can alternate from being asleep to awake in nine-minute intervals. It would be interesting to see research on how many times the average person hits the snooze alarm. Myself, I am a two-, sometimes three-hitter.

We were visiting friends not long ago and as I am given to do, I snooped. A black-and-white 50s-era photo displayed behind a glass door in a china closet caught my eye.

The picture obviously was a subject of pride. In the photo, a man is sitting in a two-seater sports car, which I couldn’t identify. At first I thought it was a King Midget or maybe a Crosley. But according to my friend Shirley, “The car is a Dimond and that’s my dad, Herbert Merrill Dimond.”

Her dad built the car in 1955, but not from a kit with directions. He designed it exactly the way Corvettes were designed. He started with a clay model and finished by hand laying the fiberglass himself over a wood frame built on Crosley running gear. So, I was close.

“He only wanted to build one and never had ambitions to mass produce the Dimond,” Shirley says. “Being unique was very important to him.”

He drove it every day for years. It had a convertible top, but it was seldom used. The Dimond actually had a few very interesting, luxury features. One was the gauge console on the driver’s side that you straddled, a hood scoop, ’54 Chevy taillights. And it had seat belts, which weren’t standard in those days.

Note the unusual console.

Note the unusual console.

I was sure to tell Shirley how interesting I thought her father must have been. “He was and believe me, we had an interesting childhood.” she says. “He also invented the snooze alarm.”

Being a car guy, I thought his building a car with two bare hands was progressive. But knowing that he also invented the snooze alarm changed everything. Put me together with another car guy and we can launch into a conversation that can bore other people to tears.

“Was that the 289 cubic inch, 225 hp or the high performance 271 hp?” My relationship with my snooze alarm would never be the same. I thought the Dimond two-seater was an interesting unknown fact within the auto industry. But my going back to sleep for nine minutes each morning may be equally as important.

Herb Dimond was a fascinating man and a bit of a genius really. I am consoled by the fact that he probably built his Dimond before he invented the snooze alarm.

Dimond’s then-employer, General Electric/Telechron, introduced the first snooze alarm, model 7H241 “The Snooze Alarm,” on June 10, 1956. The rest – forgive me – is history. Today, snooze alarms have built in nine-minute intervals. No one really knows why. Dimond’s version offered a five- and 10-minute snooze option.

During WWII, General Electric recruited Dimond from Kansas State University. He was immediately separated from his pregnant wife and sent to San Francisco for six months to work on a top-secret project for the Defense Department.

He and his colleagues developed the sonar technology that ended Hitler’s U-Boat dominance of the North Atlantic. While he was away in San Francisco, Dimond’s son was born. Both mom and dad agreed on the name “Lyman,” evidently unconcerned that the first and last name rhymed. Lyman Dimond remained bitter about this oversight throughout his formative years, but later credited the rhyme with the development of his unique personality and high level of confidence.

Herb drove the Dimond for eight years – remarkable considering that at 6’3″ he barely fit in the driver’s seat. In 1963, he sold his creation and bought a Corvette.

The one-of-a-kind Dimond was never seen again.