The first and oldest, strong and bright
Performs his duty dawn to night.
Inside a curve a humble stick
Does even better - what a trick!
Many turnings, night and day,
Dust that runs a narrow way.
Escapement, weight and turning part
Co-operate in ancient art.
Resonant geometry
Excited electronically.
Small and mighty, they're the best
When chilled. They govern all the rest.

For the green tick, tell me how I told you the answer.

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Looks like these are

ways to measure time, listed roughly in chronological order of their invention.

The first and oldest, strong and bright / Performs his duty dawn to night.

Looking at the sun will give the approximate time of day

Inside a curve a humble stick / Does even better - what a trick!

The sundial gives a more accurate time than just looking at the sun. The simplest sundial is just a curve, where the locations of the shadow of a fixed stick (the gnomon) are marked.

Many turnings, night and day, / Dust that runs a narrow way.

An hourglass has sand running in it, but you need to keep flipping it over when it runs out.

Escapement, weight and turning part / Co-operate in ancient art.

A mechanical clock has an escapement, a weight (the pendulum), and clock hands that turn

Resonant geometry / Excited electronically.

A quartz clock works by running electricity to a quartz crystal, which responds piezoelectrically, and starts to vibrate in a very predictable manner, which gives a very accurate way to measure time.

Small and mighty, they're the best / When chilled. They govern all the rest.

Atomic clocks are currently the best way to measure time, the time they keep is considered definitive, and all other clocks are synchronised to them. Chilling an atomic clock (eg. with liquid nitrogen, or even close to the absolute zero with lasers) reduces the background noise and slows the atoms down. Both of the effects improve the accuracy of measurement.

That would make the title into

old-timer and egg timer (This is probably what the crypto speaking @jafe is suggesting below)

And OP told me the answer

in a timely manner, one clue at a time, and probably in his spare time.

Kudos to Level 51 for spotting the acrostic.

  • 2
    This has to be it. The title could refer to rot13(byq-gvzre naq rtt gvzre). – jafe Aug 10 at 7:46
  • Looking good but... tell me how I told you. ;-) – Hugh Meyers Aug 10 at 8:02
  • 2
    Adding on to this, rot13(gur fgnegvat yrggre bs rirel bgure yvar fcryyf bhg GVZREF) - I'm guessing that's the intended answer, which fits with the title's terminology too – Level 51 Aug 10 at 9:05
  • @Level51 Correct! When this goes into the answer, I will add the tick. – Hugh Meyers Aug 10 at 9:11

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