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Internet Time     CNN Transcript

Science and Technology Week
20 Feb 1999

This text was excerpted from the full transcript of the show at the CNN site. The complete transcript was located at cnn.com/transcripts/9902/20/stc.00.html. However, it appears that CNN does not keep such transcripts for an extended period and this transcript is no longer available.

[Begin excerpt]

The Internet has changed the way we look at many things, and now some citizens of cyberspace are trying to create yet another revolution. The target this time is time.

Rick Lockridge has the story.


RICK LOCKRIDGe, CNN CORReSPONDeNT (voice-over): You go shopping for a watch, you expect it to tell you the time in the old familiar way: sweep hand or digital. It doesn't matter, just give me the hour and the minute.

So what is up with this new three-digit thing, this Swatch Internet time you see on a lot of Web sites, including CNN's home page? And what about that unit of time called the Internet beat? Swatch says it's the greatest thing since the tick and tock.

YANN GAMARD, CeO, SWATCH GROUP AMeRICA: each beat is equivalent to one minute and 26.4 seconds. I think it's a good answer to that. And you can see it's Wednesday 10, and at the same time, it is offering you the Internet time.

LOCKRIDGe (on camera): Which is?

GAMARD: eight-hundred-and-eighty-one, just right now.

LOCKRIDGe (voice-over): So the way it works is there are a thousand beats in a day, and it's a the same number of beats everywhere, so when it's 446 beats for me, it's 446 beats for you no matter where in the world you are.

The thinking is we can get together on the Internet that way without having to calculate what time it is in my time zone versus your time zone.

PeTeR BeRNARD, SOFTWARe DeVeLOPeR: I think it's a clever idea. I mean, we have developers in Geneva and London, and I guess, you know, it could come in handy if I wanted to call them at a certain time and make sure I don't wake them up or something.

So if I want to zip back and forth to Internet time and regular time, it's....


LOCKRIDGe (voice-over): Peter ended up buying Swatch's new Internet Beat Watch, shelled out 80 bucks for it. But wait a second, OK, fine, wait a beat. Why do we need a new universal time standard? Don't we already have Greenwich mean time? I mean, don't we?

(on camera): Can you tell me right now what Greenwich time it is right now?


LOCKRIDGe: All right, John, it's 3:47 p.m. here. What is Greenwich mean time right now?

JOHN: Couldn't tell you.

LOCKRIDGe (voice-over): So much for good old GMT. Maybe that's why MIT's Nicholas Negroponte, one of the father's of the Internet, is backing the beat.

NICHOLAS NEGROPONTe, MIT PROFeSSOR: This is just the beginning. This is the beginning of understanding that cyberspace has no boundaries, no techno limits, no geography, no distance. We're just at the beginning of understanding what that means.

LOCKRIDGe: Swatch says it had 40 million hits on its Internet time home page in December. Says there have been 30,000 downloads of the free software that lets you count Internet beats on your computer desktop. Says it can't make its Internet Beat Watches fast enough to meet the demand. Reaction on the streets? Some love it.

UNIDeNTIFIED MALe: Me, as a tourist now, I'm always confused with the time zones and everything, and so if you have one time, I think that's perfect. One of the best ideas I've ever heard of.

UNIDeNTIFIED FeMALe: I do have a lot of people around the world that I know, so, you know, I do think it'd be a really good idea to try it out.

LOCKRIDGe: But some think a new kind of time is just plain....

(on camera): Do you think it's crazy or useful?


UNIDeNTIFIED MALe: When shall I need this?

LOCKRIDGe: There is one question that keeps popping up, though.

UNIDeNTIFIED FeMALe: So you're saying like it's a universal time?

LOCKRIDGe (on camera): Yes.

UNIDeNTIFIED FeMALe: Is there way of figuring what the real time is, or...

LOCKRIDGe: That's still going to depend on where you are in the world. So maybe Internet time isn't quite ready for primetime. Swatch's Gamard says that was never the point.

GAMARD: We are trying to provoke the world in the third millennium with an answer and a new entry to the third millennium. Why do we need it? It's because we believe there was something missing there.

LOCKRIDGe (on camera): In time, the Internet Beat may be replaced or forgotten, but it is a good example of how the increasing interconnectiveness of this all can cause us to rethink something as fundamental as time keeping. And so for the moment at least, the beat goes on.

In New York, I'm Rick Lockridge for SCIeNCe & TECHNOLOGY WEEK.


[end excerpt]


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