Clickwise

What is this?

Clickwise is a fictional language from Penny Arcade’s Automata series of comics (and film) which is spoken by robots. This page documents a mode of written Clickwise called “Clocktalk”, which is a simple cipher for English (and other languages that use the basic Latin alphabet).

The creator, Jerry Holkins (aka Tycho Brahe), likened it to katakana, a writing system used in Japanese primarily for writing words of foreign origin, like スーパーマーケット (sūpāmāketto – supermarket).

How was this figured out?

The information you see here was mostly pieced together in 2015 through interpreting various bits of content related to the Automata film Kickstarter, including graffiti reading “KEEP OUT“, the sleeve of a hoodie reading “RAISE THIS ARM TO INITIATE REVOLUTION“, and a pin reading “REGAL SWANGEE“.

The digit 3 was discovered through a banner ad for the “SWANGE3” t-shirt (since discontinued and unlisted).

In addition, back when I was in the process of collecting all this information and blogging about it, Tycho somehow actually found the blog and wrote about it, and graced us with the letter “J” so I could write my name. (Thanks, dude!)

The letters X and Y were discovered much later (in September of 2021) in some card background art for the Automata Noir card game (in the words “EXECUTABLES” and “YOU”, respectively).

How do I use it?

If you want to write something in Clocktalk, the easiest way is to use this font designed by a fellow fan of Automata.

It is written left to right, top to bottom, with spaces between words, just like the Latin alphabet is normally written.

Missing Pieces

The symbols for Q and Z are unattested, as well as every digit except 3. I used to include guesses about these missing pieces here, but every single guess has turned out to be wrong.

I will espouse my pet theory about the number system, though, which is that it is binary. The least significant bit is at the top and the most significant bit is at the bottom, except for the very bottom dot which is always present to indicate that it is a number. This would allow a single Clocktalk character to represent a number as high as 25 – 1 (31) and two characters could go as high as 322 – 1 (1,023).


This page was created by Jon Molnar (@jon_cogspace), software engineer, conlanger, and all-around big-ol’ nerd. If you wanna talk Clickwise, feel free to DM me or email me at jon@cogspace.com.