Do you ever set up a teleconference across time zones? Did you ever get confused because when you agreed to have the call at 9:00 AM, some thought it was 9:00 AM their time but you meant 9:00 AM your time? Did you ever wonder why we don't use a common time, a time that is the same, no matter where you are?
We have long had such a time: it used to be called Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Now it is called Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). The military calls it Zulu time. It is the time at the zero-longitude. It is the time at the British Royal Observatory in Greenwich england.
(So, why, you ask, is Coordinated Universal Time abbreviated UTC? Some wanted to use the English word order (CUT). Others wanted to use the French word order (TUC). But, sometimes in international standards, compromise is necessary. UTC was chosen as a compromise.)
Now UTC (or GMT) has long been used to record scientific events. It is a standard unrelated to time zones. But except for a few bizarre people like me (I once kept my watch set to UTC for two years), most people have no idea what it is and don't really care. And the idea of using the time in england to represent the time here is, well, unappealing.
For example, it would mean that here in Dallas, instead of normal working hours being 08:00 to 17:00 (5:00 PM) Central Time, they would be 14:00 (2:00 PM) to 23:00 (11:00 PM) UTC. The hours wouldn't be different; they would just have different names.
Why in the world would anyone want to try such a thing?
Because when it is 14:00 UTC in Dallas, it is also 14:00 UTC in San Francisco, in New York, in Honolulu and in London.
Of course, Daylight Savings Time couldn't exist. Instead, of changing the clocks to say the the same thing even though we are doing it earlier, we would leave the clocks the same and just try to get everyone to do it earlier.
Well, despite all that trouble, someone new is trying to do all of that, with a twist.
On 23 Oct 1998, Swatch has Internet Time (what they called Swatch Internet Time). It has one old idea and two new ones:
(1) Internet Time is the same, no matter where you are, just like Greenwich Mean Time or Coordinated Universal Time. It is a universal time. It has a prefix of "@" to indicate it is Internet Time.
(2) We will count time differently, not in hours and minutes, but rather in 1/1000 of a day. Each 1/1000 of a day is called a beat and is roughly equivalent to one minute, 26.4 seconds. (This is what you get if you divide the day into ten decimal-hours and each decimal-hour into 100 decimal-minutes.)
(3) Instead of Greenwich, england as the standard (GMT), we will use Biel, Switzerland (Biel Meridian Time or BMT). Why? Because Swatch is in Biel.
So, @000 is midnight in Biel, Switzerland. And @000 is also whatever time it is anywhere else in the world when it is midnight in Biel, Switzerland.
Now, those who know me will tell you that I am a might bit obsessive compulsive about time. And, I take some personal pleasure in being "different".
For example, I wear my watch on the inside of my right wrist and have done that since the 6th grade. Why? Because my studies indicate that the fewest people wear their watches there.
So, internet time is intriguing to me.
Of course, Swatch did it to promote Swatch. They call it Swatch Internet Time. But across the internet, "Swatch" has been dropped. Swatch also provides webclocks (like the one at the top of this page). But no one uses theirs because they say "Swatch". Instead, new sites offer "brand free" webclocks. (See Don Reed's site below.)
Can other watch makers make internet time watches? Or will Swatch claim trademark violations? It hasn't been decided yet.
And why the switch from the GMT meridian to the BMT. Wouldn't sticking with the original basis make more sense? It is already in use worldwide.
And, the "beats" need to be divided and accumulated. Millibeats? Kilobeats?
Still, internet time may be an example of emotion triumphing over reason. It may catch on precisely because it changes too much. It embodies an old idea that no one seems to understand (UTC) in clothes so new that the idea seems new. And maybe new clothes will make a difference.
But, I still think just using UTC would be better.
Other Internet Time on My Site
Internet Time — CNN Transcript (excerpt), 20.Feb.1999: This transcript excerpt is from the CNN TV show, Science and Technology Week. (See below for a link to the complete transcript.) (InternetTimECNN)
Internet Time on The Net
CNN Interactive (26.Feb.1999) , "Internet Time: Will the 'beat' go on?" (cnn.com/tech/computing/9902/26/t_t/internet.time/index.html)
Science & Technology Week
"A Jumbo Problem;
Changing Times; Focused Forecasts":
The complete show transcript. See above for an excerpt about Internet Time.
Other Time Sites
Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM): The international organization that ensures world-wide uniformity of measurements and their traceability to the International System of Units (SI). (www.bipm.fr/enus/)
earth View: This site shows a "current" view of the earth, with day/night represented. You can see the entire earth (flat), the view from the sun (all daylight), the view from the moon. You can see the earth "naturally" ("Living earth"), or the clouds, or the topography. You can even select the view from one of our many satellites. This is a fun site. (www.fourmilab.ch/cgi-bin/uncgi/earth)
National Institute of Standards and Technology: The U.S. agency responsible for national standards. (See also the U. S. Naval Observatory (USNO) below.) NIST and USNO both seem to have "responsibility" for the official time standard. I've attempted to clarify this responsibility through emails to both agencies. The responses were somewhat contradictory. (www.nist.gov/)
Don Reed's Internet Time Applet Page: A collection of Java Applets for websites without the Swatch logo. The Internet Time clock at the top of this page is from Don Reed's site. (www.donatello.com/itime/)
Uniform Time Act: Passed in 1966, it standardized the length of Daylight Savings Time in the U.S., and provided for states to exempt themselves from Daylight Savings Time. (www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/15/260a.html)
U. S. Naval Observatory: One of two government sites that thinks it has the responsibility for the time standard. (The other one is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). See above.) (www.usno.navy.mil/)
What Time is It in Indiana?: Indiana is confused about time. Arizona and Hawaii don't observe Daylight Savings Time. Indiana, on the other hand, has three different time arrangements within the state. This page tries to explain it. (www.mccsc.edu/time.html)
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