I just found out that in some movies, for some reason the bottom part of number 9 on digital clocks is cut out. An example from Back to the Future (6 gets the same treatment):

Back to the Future clock

I'd just dismiss it as them using a weird clock, but then, here are two examples where the clock used is a real clock model, and the real clock uses standard numbers - so this has to be deliberate.

The Matrix: Matrix clock The real clock: Matrix real clock

Christmas with the Kranks: Christmas with the Kranks The real clock: Christmas with the Kranks real clock

Note that I got the movie screenshots off a discussion forum, so there's a slight chance someone is just trolling me, but that would be a very weird way to troll, so I'm inclined to believe those are real screenshots.

So, what is the reason for that? Is it some inside joke like Wilhelm scream? Or is that done to make sure the audience doesn't confuse it with some other numbers (in which case, why wouldn't clock makers do this too?)?

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    I'm going to guess it's purely coincidental, meaning it's based on the manufacturer of the circuit/equipment and not a choice made by the producers/writers/prop guys Sep 22, 2020 at 22:56
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    @DustinDavis What about the comparisons of the exact same clock that looks one way in the movie and different in real life? Sep 23, 2020 at 3:40
  • In what way is this IMPORTANT to the appreciation or understanding of these shows? This is utter trivia.
    – Paulie_D
    Sep 23, 2020 at 4:52
  • Paulie_D is right. this falls under trivia
    – Vishwa
    Sep 23, 2020 at 6:56
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    Could it be market specific? Like, the clocks in the screen shots were all from the USofA, and the photos of real-life models were from Europe?
    – Darren
    Sep 23, 2020 at 9:57

1 Answer 1


Both displays are a valid 7-segment display standards, it is up to the equipment manufacturer to implement them.

Typical 7 segment display looks like this:

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Each of the elements can be highlighted, providing the display of the 0-9 numbers (as well as some letters). It is mostly up to a whoever is building the display screen, will he put a "tail" on digits 6,7 and 9:

enter image description here enter image description here

enter image description hereenter image description here

enter image description here enter image description here

However, if the display is intended to display hexadecimal values (so including A-F), the "6" and "9" digits need to have the tail, to distinguish "6" from "b". The same is true, if the display intends to present a text.

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    Yes, but that doesn’t answer the OP’s question : given a commercially available model of clock that DOES show the tails, then why when that model of clock is used in the movies is it NOT showing the tails. The Doc Brown one I can understand as the Doc making his own and maybe wanting to keep hex separate .... but why is the Sony not showing the tails in the movies when it does in real life ?
    – racraman
    Sep 23, 2020 at 2:13
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    @racraman Because... they make this model both ways? There is no deeper meaning here, it is like asking "why some cars in movies have manual gear boxes and some have automatic one".
    – Yasskier
    Sep 23, 2020 at 2:17
  • @Yasskier - because there is a market for each? Some people prefer manual and others automatic. But for models of digital clocks, is there really different markets, to the extent that they created models with both settings, because some people prefer 9s with tails and others without? If so then that would appear to be the answer!
    – komodosp
    Sep 25, 2020 at 14:14
  • The reason the retail clock and movie prop differ is possibly because the movie prop has had its guts replaced with a circuit that allows easier control over displayed time. Who wants a prop that take a minute to reset for every take? Clearly the designer of the circuit didn't have an eye for detail.
    – Chris_F
    Aug 1, 2021 at 0:53

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