You wouldn't say "oh-four" to indicate four AM. You only need to say "oh-four" if the 12 hours system is the norm and you need to clarify you're talking about "military time". You wouldn't need to say "twelve hundred hours" either.
I'd recon if English speaking countries switched to the 24 hours system, they'd likely just do what everybody else has done: keep counting. It'd be far more natural to say "it's 13 o'clock" (just as you would say "it's one o'clock" when it's obvious from context whether it's in the middle of night or early afternoon).
And "midnight" and "midday" would likely still refer to the "solar time" in the scenario where everybody uses UTC (though it's obvious the author is really just getting at how we would re-invent time zones eventually out of necessity).
I'm not really sure what the article is on about, though. Did anyone ever really argue that we should abolish time zones in general? As far as I can tell most people who are annoyed with time zones (particularly programmers who have to deal with them a lot if they need to deal with date time logic directly) would only want to get rid of DST.
As a german, i gotta agree. We have (translated) "four in the afternoon" or "16 'o clock". (4 Uhr Nachmittags, 16 Uhr.) We also never say the leading zero on hours, and depending on context it doesn't even need to be clarified that we're talking about "'o clock", these are perfectly fine exchanges: "When will you go to the beach?" "Three twenty." (Wann geht ihr zum Strand? - Drei zwanzig.) The context makes it abundantly clear which is meant.
There's also the fact that nobody uses the construct "xx hundred" for numbers above 9. The years before 2000 are still referred to like that, but outside of that people will consider you very strange if you try and buy "twelve hundred grams of minced meat". And for times it's especially not used.
The author's awkwardness with 24 hour times entirely on himself.
Edit: To make this post a little useful, this website is extremely useful for dealing with people in different timezones:
That said, I agree that there's nothing awkward about 24 hour times.
It's a great and well designed site. Works offline too!
You can now just type "12 pm in Lima" in Google and it will give your the equivalent in you local timezone.
As an aside, in high school I had an English teacher with such clear and correct diction, that people said you could hear the apostrophe in "o'clock"...
Count me amongst those who do. By subjective reflection - and standing significant chance of being wrong - I would say most frequently when I've had to do a bit of arithmetic on values where rounding to hundreds is most reasonable.
I use it all the time. What's easier to say, "one thousand two hundred" or "twelve hundred"?
Imagine someone told you "twelve tens" for 120 :)
Anyway, "tysiąc dwieście" for 1200 is easier than "twelve hundred" or "dwanaście setek".
The use of "zero-four" in military time is not to clarify that they are talking about "military time" vs. some other time system but to minimize the risk of ambiguity in environments where hearing might be difficult (noisy environments, poor communications links, etc.) and a mistaken communication could have serious consequences. If you don't have a clear, two-digit hour, you know you've missed something and need to ask for a repeat.
Presumably, the use of "oh-four" by some in non-military use of 24-hour time is an echo of that use.
As I said in response to another thread, yes. People argue to abolish timezones. An example from Vox: http://www.vox.com/2014/8/5/5970767/case-against-time-zones
The term 'military time' is funny. It's not a military thing. It's more like most people on earth has switched, including the US military -- better if both Alpha- and Bravo-squads attack at 07:00 instead of 7 pm/am respectively :)
Is that somewhat correct?
The author is making it easy for himself with a contrived example with a key information already available.
> I want to call my Uncle Steve in Melbourne. What time is it there?
In a world with timezones, if your uncle is on the Internet and says "call me at 13h30" but doesn't tell you where he is, you can't call him, because you dont't know when is 13h30. (Think about that... he just gave you the time, but you still don't know the time...)
With timezones, you can't just give the time, you must also give a location. "Time" doesn't exist with timezones, only "time-location".
It's as if a physicist couldn't give you the mass of something without giving you the color.
"This table is 10kg-blue, which is the equivalent of 20kg-pink." (Because kg-colors aren't equal everywhere.)
On the other hand, with a universal time (UTC for example), 13h30 is the same for everyone, everywhere. The time can be given without any other information. If someone says call me at this number at 13h30, I can just do that without having to know where he is.
Let's look back at the initial problem:
> I want to call my Uncle Steve in Melbourne. What time is it there?
Well, if I have a universal time, it's very easy: it's the same time as where I am!
I don't even need to ask google! Beat ya!
But of course the author want to know if he can call someone out-of-the-blue by knowing where he is. Well, if you can use google to tell you what is the time in another timezone, you can use google to tell you what is the usual waking hour in this location. You don't need additional information in this example.
With universal time, the worst case scenario is needing the same amount of information as we do today (current time + location). The best case scenario is having a sane way of communicating time.
- With timezones: I need timezone (location). Generally I can call 9am to 5pm.
- Without timezones: I need location so I can figure out the range of times people typically work in that area (perhaps it might be 11pm to 7am).
And you're back to solving the same problem, just in a more complicated way with no helpful conventions.
In a world with timezones, if your uncle is on the Internet and says "call me at 13h30" but doesn't tell you where he is, you can't call him, because you dont't know when is 13h30.
Nobody who's used to communicating across timezones has this problem. After being bitten in the ass a few times you learn to say "Call me at 3pm eastern" or whatever. The no-timezones cure is way worse than the timezone disease.
Not more complicated, exactly the same amount of complicated. You can add the conventions.
> After being bitten in the ass a few times you learn to say "Call me at 3pm eastern" or whatever.
And then you still screw it up because DST changes a week later in one country or another, or some such. Even when you do it frequently, it's not a solved problem by any means.
So the author is right that in some weak contrived scenario, using a highly interruptive comm service, maybe zones help. Event they don't, cause Google could trivially give you the "apparent solar time" going by geography, anyways.
Timezones are an annoying hack. Daylight savings is even more obnoxious. Especially in poorly run counties that make up DST rules on an ad hoc basis.
In the context of programming, you should almost always be using UTC, maybe with an offset. Several times I've run into companies that keep call billing records in local time. Compete with extra hours and time traveling calls around DST jumps. Moronic. (And leap seconds can go get fucked, too. I'm saddened that we have to put up with such s pointless, annoying thing. Maybe we could switch to leap hours. No noticeable effect for millennia, at which point relativity should be a much larger issue with timekeeping.)
Depending on location and specific business practices, 9:30am their time might be a good time to call in mid morning, but it might actually be the time they usually arrive at work, or in some Chinese cities the time they usually get out of bed. If it's 9:30 am on Friday it could be, like Europe, the last day of the week in some Muslim countries, the first day of the weekend in others, the only day of the weekend in Afghanistan, and subject to quite a bit of variety somewhere as full of Western run companies as Dubai. Most of these countries changed the days of their weekend in the last decade or so (which suggests problems with religious holidays are not insurmountable...). And that's the standard work week, without getting into the minefield of regional and religious holidays, and individuals' own holiday, sick leave and round-the-world travel...
Suddenly a universal status update system (or algorithmic handling of how inbound calls are passed on) looks far more necessary for the digital age than time zones.
The only thing in favour of time zones as a hack to assess someone's availability [given assumptions about their location] is their universal acceptance.
I hate timezones, and I especially hate switching times ie: DST. Having to work across timezones I have made these mistakes which were not only inconvenient, but screwed up my schedule for the rest of the day: Prepared for a call 6 hours early (oops I was supposed to add 3 hours, not subtract), missed a call (oops I was supposed to subtract 3 hours, not add), given a schedule that was 8AM, 8AM, 8AM, 8PM, 8AM, showed up 12 hours early for the 4th appointment.
Finally, I don't know if you realize this, but DST time is correlated with higher heart attack rates, increased traffic accidents, and a slew of other bad things.
Decoupling time-of-day for daily life from the position of the sun in the sky is the biggest over-reaction for the smallest barely-a-problem ever.
Phones should be programmed to accept or reject calls by the owner, because it is a really dumb idea to be able to wake people up knowing only their phone number. Notably, this is already the case: cellphones have mute/vibrate switches, and if you have a smart phone you probably have various "do not disturb" modes that do more advanced routing.
As a followup and to actually resolve the question for the call placer, phones could broadcast their availability status and this status could be queryable by phone number.
Stardates have their own problems but I'm not convinced those problems are harder than the problems we have with timezones now. We've built up a terrible amount of infrastructure around timezone handling, we should not be scared off when stardates require unique infrastructure projects.
I pay a lot for phone service and the actual quality of the service they provide to me is terrible. They actually allow illegal phone spammers onto their network. I get phone-calls from robots about free trips, on a service that costs me more than my NetFlix account that I get a lot more enjoyment from.
I get Gmail for free and it filters that crap out.
And don't get me started on the piss-poor UIs of the traditional TV industry. Holy crap.
But many customers would slip in lots of dialer anyways. You can tell after the fact, by looking in aggregate. But on a per call basis, nope.
Now, we tried blocking repeated caller numbers. Spammers would just switch to using random numbers. For many reasons (some good) it is simply not tractable to know if s number is s valid source for a call. It's vastly more complicated than say IP spoofing.
The most effective solution is to have an answering service/program that screens calls and allows known callers without further hassle.
Your provider could offer a service to block "known" bad numbers, but a lot of business use the same number for many things. I'd be surprised if some consumer services don't offer such services. Though, there may be some regulations that require them to attempt to complete the call.
Also note that some dialer, like political calls, are expressly allowed and don't have to follow do not call.
The best recourse you have after the fact is to make an FCC complaint and persue it. I've seen tons of complaints that go nowhere because no end user pushes the issue. For really illegal dialer, there's gonna be several intermediaries, say, 5+ isn't surprising. Each one has to escalate to the next. Without a fire under their ass, most providers will close the complaint with effectively "can't repro, dunno".
I setup a PBX so that I could block any repeat callers, but that didn't really work because each call is from another random number. There were also a few automated calls so I set it up to play an automated message of 30 seconds saying to press a code to speak to someone, if the number is withheld or international. That ended up blocking pretty much all the calls. I guess the dialers interpret it as a voicemail greeting and move on.
I've since found out there are plenty of SIP providers who if you ask them nicely will let you send any callerid without proving ownership - even for international calls. When it costs them around half a US cent per minute (probably less in bulk) it's not surprising there are so many spam calls.
Now, for small, low volume deals, like say, Twilio, yeah you could force an ownership test. But it would have no impact on the real offenders.
The solution is not a technical solution, but a legal one.
It could be different. And as a carrier, I've begged other carriers to push. Have their end user escalate. Get LE involved and get them to go all the way till they find the originator of calls and nail em. But out of the few hundred "complaints" I've seen, only one or two even pretended to care, and none ever really followed up.
The US could kill illegal robo dialing, at least a lot if it, just by getting serious and slapping fines down.
It's so dumb, that even the FCC put out a prize for the best anti robo dialer tech someone could come up with. It defies explanation.
(I personally sued a debt collector in small claims court for wrong number robocalls to my cell phone, and settled for the entire amount I was asking, $500 per call.)
There was a standard for this in the 00's called "Wireless Village" that got so far it was usually integrated into the phone books of dumbphones by Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson, but it never got any uptake.
I'm often up at 2AM, in which case I'll hopefully still be sleeping at 9AM. Sometimes I have 6AM meetings, in which case I'll (hopefully) be asleep early the previous day. I also travel to conferences halfway around the world. My local timezone is not a good way to guess when to call me.
The problem that people are trying to solve by abolishing time zones is the annoying need to deal with time differences when scheduling meetings. The "I need to consult a table to schedule meetings" problem.
But we've just moved the problem under another shell. Now, in order to schedule meetings, I have to know what the universal "04:00" means for all participants. This is just the flip side of the same coin.
The real fundamental problem is that people like to work "during the day" and sleep "during the night". Either we solve that problem with time zones tables, or we solve it with "what is the solar time of day" tables. The author of this article is arguing, and I agree, that trading one for the other doesn't improve the situation ("is not simpler"), has a lot of human transition costs, and that the new problem may not ACTUALLY be an improvement over the old problem.
No, abolishing time zones and DST would also remove huge swathes of code in all of today's operating systems, numerous costly bugs, and make time unambiguous without qualifiers like time zone or location. There are lots of reasons to do it.
As others have pointed out, the real fundamental problem is best solved by people indicating their status somehow now and in the future, because not everyone in a country works 9-5, not everyone is available all of that time for phone calls, and why should everyone work to the same schedule anyway?
If you want to schedule calls, use a calendar, if you want to make a call right now, use an availability indicator.
Because we can be certain that, going forward, we will never need to talk about a time before we made the change.
The failure cases are much better though. Say you screw this up, and you schedule the meeting at what you think is "09:00 Bangalore" but it's actually "07:00 Bangalore".
With timezones: You tell the guy in Bangalore to dial in at 09:00, he says fine, then he misses the meeting.
Without timezones: You tell the guy in Bangalore to dial in at 04:00, he either sucks it up or says "umm I'm still having my breakfast then" and you reschedule.
And an option to punch someone in the face over the phone if they had used the second button when they should've used the first.
Maybe they aren't.
> Imagine that you've found yourself in Kashgar, the western-most city in Xinjiang, China’s western-most region. Your friend sends you a text message and tells you to meet him at 3 pm. Sounds pretty straight forward, right? Not in Xinjiang. If your friend is of China's majority Han ethnicity, you can assume that by 3 o'clock he's referring to Beijing Standard Time. But if your friend is a Uighur, the largest ethnic minority group in Xinjiang, he might be referring to “local time,” which is two hours behind.
The thing you're missing is this: How can Uncle Steve know he should say "call me at 2"? Either he has to do a lookup, or he has to internalize that Australia is a place where the workday is 23-to-7.
And where I am, the workday would be 1-to-9, the east coast would be 4-to-13, Paris would be 10-to-6, and Bangalore would be 14-to-23. And this system made everything simpler... how?
Even now, work days (within a timezone) are not consistent. Most teachers here work from about 8am until 4pm, most office workers work 9am till 5pm, but some work from 9am till 5:30pm. I work 10am till 6pm. I know people who work 6am till 3pm. Lots of people do shiftwork and work completely inconsistent hours. These are just common times, in reality even in the same types of job, there are variations. Its not at all consistent and nobody can know when someone else is working without asking them.
And I certainly don't have to look up when I work (unless I work shifts and have to either way) - I already know when I have to be in work and when I get to leave.
This is already the case, except that the numbers are confusingly given the same names. What I mean is, even if everybody works 9-to-5 local time, your 9 is not the same as my 9 - you need to know the timezone and if its DST and then add or subtract a number to convert to either your or their local time. How is that easier?
And timezones are not easy. For example, I read someplace that if you happen to live in Israel/Palestine, what timezone your in depends not on location, but on if you identify as Israeli or Palestinian. Simple, right?
Um, because that's when he gets off work? If you get up at 16 and go to bed at 8, you say "call me after 16 or before 8". Simples.
> And where I am, the workday would be 1-to-9, the east coast would be 4-to-13, Paris would be 10-to-6, and Bangalore would be 14-to-23. And this system made everything simpler... how?
If you want to schedule a conference call with two of them, you can immediately know what the overlap time is without having to google.
(I assume you meant 10-to-18 for Paris)
> Um, because that's when he gets off work? If you get up at 16 and go to bed at 8, you say "call me after 16 or before 8". Simples.
How can you convince Uncle Steve (and the tens of millions of others in his timezone) to set their clocks to UTC, to start thinking of 1am as midday, 7am as dinnertime, and 10pm as the start of the workday? How can you convince these people to reprint opening hours, schoolbooks, TV schedules? How can you convince these millions of people that this is "Simples", when most of them do not interact with people in other timezones at all? Why would they do this?
So can I call my sister in Sydney? edt(utc) -> 4:00AM, nope I can't call her. You can use any other timezone as input as well to get the actual time in an other timezone.
I think it is pretty easy to conceptualize for humans, this is why we have timezones. The suggested system does not feel right to me.
Wikipedia has the gory details for those interesting in that bit of trivia. I've used it as a programming exercise when interviewing candidates a couple of times.
php5 -r 'echo idate("B");'
It kind of goes back to the reason that time zones were created in the first place -- when trains came into popularity it became very hard to coordinate times between trains arriving from different towns that calibrated themselves to their sun dials. The time zones helped standardize the time so that you knew when the train would arrive.
This introduced towns that would wake up earlier and later than noon and introduced big problems in season variations.
So here's a silly demo: http://mike.rs/highnoon/
But I also realized that when scheduling events you have to consider the time adjustment depending on the distance east-west the event will be from you. Since the Earth is approx. 25,000 miles around in 24 hrs you have to adjust plus or minus 3 to 4 seconds per mile of travel (if I haven't miscalculated). Of course, when coordinating events more than a few dozen miles away, one would surely use "absolute time" instead.
I think watches that had both would be awesome. You could identify your exact longitude by the difference between your relative time and the absolute time.
Nome of this is solid, just what I thought of while sitting here reading your comment. Seems like it may be problematic but with some possible upsides.
But it won't happen, because in the latter case you need to convince a few hundred million people to change their language, cultural references, and worldview, and they just don't want to do that. (The former case, obviosuly, means you have to convince a few billion people to do the same. Good luck.)
It does this mostly through automatic indicators…
• whether uncle has his device in 'do-not-disturb' mode
• how many hours it's been since uncle has woken or arrived-at-work or seen the local sunrise
• whether he's in a loud or quiet place, stationary or moving
• a live video feed of his public-facing workspace, or perhaps the view from his window
But it might also have indicators from subtle learned cues: the device senses if he's in a meeting, or currently in a spirited f2f conversation with others, or in the time/place when he usually engages in phone calls. So if it thinks "now is not good", it can also predict and show the likely next workable time.
In fact, you might even just press a button (or vocalize a command) telling your device, "let me know when it's a good time to chat with uncle". It'll negotiate a time with uncle's device, only bothering uncle for decisions if/when it's locally appropriate. Then it will offer to connect the call only when it's almost certain to be welcomed by both ends.
All these technologies are likely to arrive, even without a single global time. But once they arrive it'll be easy for more people to prefer UTC. And it'll seem silly that anyone ever needed to write 2,200 words about how hard single-timezone coordination would be, because for people living with such assistive technology, that coordination will be effortless.
Sun-locked time-zones were a useful transitional coordination technology, but cheap computing and telecommunication will offer much better options.
There are several major, common issues with timekeeping that cause huge engineering headaches:
- Frequent or arbitrary changes to time zone standards
- Daylight savings time
- Time zones with fractional hour offsets
- Frequent or arbitrary adjustments to UTC (universal time) in an effort to keep it more astronomically correct
The good things I can imagine happening to timekeeping are:
- Abolish daylight savings time
- Separate universal terrestrial time from "astronomically correct" time, with infrequent synchronizations fixed in time (e.g. once every decade or century)
- Abolish fractional hour offset time zones and encourage countries to consolidate time zones
No, it's an idiotic argument, because it essentially boils down to forcing the billions of people who do not live in the GMT timezone to adjust their mental model of "what time is office hours", and you STILL haven't solved the original problem of answering the question "Hey, you are in a different timezone, is this a good time to schedule a meeting?" You STILL need to do a lookup!
If you think people are going to accept that voluntarily, you are insane.
Why can't we have two scales of 'time', one for marking what we'd now call 'absolute time' (an arbitrary clock that is the same all over, E.G. UTC) and another for 'time of day' (in a given location); they should also be displayed uniquely so that it's not possible to confuse one with the other.
Let's pick an arbitrary time. As a high tech society no longer ruled by sun dials we should instead make the start of the scale 'dawn' (on average). 'noon' would be at 25% of that scale, 'sunset' at 50%, midnight at 75% and 'dawn' again would be 100%/0% where it loops.
I think 00 Monday might be good shorthand for 'dawn' Monday, though most would still say 'dawn Monday', however 10 Monday would be a good marker for when you might want to meet someone for your daily dose of caffeine. 40 through 60 might be when you'd prefer to eat dinner.
>As a high tech society no longer ruled by sun dials we should instead make the start of the scale 'dawn' (on average).
Aren't you basically proposing a (slightly modified) sundial?
So take a small town, high in the Arctic Circle, which experiences 30 minutes of darkness around the Summer Solstice. 00 Monday (June 21) would correlate roughly with 12.15am; 50 Monday (sunset) would be 11.45pm. 75 Monday would come 15 minutes after sunset; though 25 Monday ('noon') would be 12pm midday, 10 Monday would actually be 4.56am. In fairness, when I'm up then I do like my caffeine.
Fast forward to December 21 (Winter solstice). The town now has 4 hours of sunlight, roughly corresponding so 00 Monday is 10am and 50 Monday is 2pm. 75 Monday is midnight, but there are now 10 hours between 50 and 75 where there used to be 15 minutes. 10 Monday equates with 10.48am, a fine time for a coffee meeting (even though it's my third meeting of the day), but bearing little resemblence to 4.56am except they match the same proportional distance between dawn and noon.
Thise living in Singapore near the Equator can't understand the fuss, since barely nothing has changed.
I think you mean to say "just below the Arctic Circle". Some place like Umeå, Sweden, perhaps. (Even then, it's not really "dark" when the sun dips just below the northern horizon.) Yeah, a time system based on sunrise/set really isn't going to work in the high latitudes.
And if we're talking Sweden, "daily dose of caffeine"? Is that breakfast, morning coffee break, end of lunch coffee, afternoon coffee break or after work coffee? :)
The day starting at dawn wasn't an uncommon rule with sundials. Its kind of weird, I'd say, that your idea boils down to "we aren't ruled by sun dials, so we should govern time by the rising of the sun". What?
Because that one I actually do.
That also mean that five months every year we have Daylight Losing Time. I want to abolish that.
Waking up 2 or 3 hours before the sun rises in winter, or 2 or 3 hours after the sun rises in summer isn't very natural. Daylight savings reduce the gap by one hour.
What do you do about leap seconds?
Here's another example on why it doesn't help:
I live in San Francisco. I travel to South Korea for work, I check in at the hotel, I'm jetlagged, I fall asleep, and wake up some time later. It's dark outside. I'm very tired, but I can't be late for work. How do I know if I can go back to sleep, or have to get up?
In a world without timezones: My phone says it's 7pm. I don't know what that means in Korea, in SF it means it's time for lunch. I either have to look it up, or have it internalized that in Korea it means it's in the middle of the night.
In a world with timezones: My phone has already switched over to local time. It says it's 4am. I go back to sleep.
The am pm thing isn't everywhere, in Europe they often say "19 o'clock" so that's just an accuracy issue (honestly it's a made up problem since am pm will still be used).
That Monday/Tuesday thing is also made up since there are offices, bars and clubs with overnight opening hours and they still separate the days, made up problem.
Lastly, the entire issue one has with not knowing if the offices are open in Australia is still happening today, and we mostly solve it via Google, like we can solve this one too
Schedules are usually made of context: Shall we grab a drink at eight? (Nobody drinks at eight in the morning, so it must mean the evening.) – Shall we have a meeting at two? (I'm usually asleep at two in the morning, so it must mean the afternoon.) – it's rare that I experience ambiguity in times.
I do like the time shifting to maximize daylight in the high latitudes.
Please, USA, quit making easy things difficult, switch to SI, put dates in correct order and move to 24h time.
But as the article points out, programmers and others who want to work with time without the hassles of timezones already have such a system (UTC).
I'm from a small town and never travel so it was a real eye opener for me. Of course I knew about the world, time zones and all that jazz I was excellent in geography and live maps, the world, cultures.
What I quickly realized is it's nearly impossible to have any relationship with a person who doesn't isn't in your time zone. Even e-mail is awkward since you know it's going off to someone who won't see it until they are awake, have time to read it, want to respond or may wait a few days.
It's like another world, I'd hate to see what happens when we discover intelligent life in a place where light takes years to reach.
That's a pretty poor solution.
This kind of shell game is pretty popular in software development, where new solutions are hyped because they lack some of the problems of the old solution, but also lack many of the benefits of the old solution.
To make a decision on what's best obviously needs a comprehensive look at all the pros and cons, not just one word-gamey one like this.
Perhaps the current set of time zones are not optimal. Maybe the best solution turns out to be just rearranging them. I would hope making them wider but perhaps there are biological reasons to refine them even further and make daylight savings even more complicated. If that somehow extends out lives, makes us more productive, or saves enough power (money), it might be worth the added cost to programmers (money).