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Ask Slashdot: Could We Deal With the End of Time Zones? 990

Posted by timothy
from the gedankenexperiment dept.
First time accepted submitter hairyfish writes "Do we still need time zones? Time zones are a relic of the past, when different parts of the world were isolated, and 12 p.m. was whenever the sun was directly above your specific location. Now, in the Internet age, time is just an arbitrary number, and time zones are just unnecessary complexity. Why can't we scrap time zones altogether, and all just use UTC across the board? So here on the eastern seaboard of Australia, lunchtime will now be at 2 a.m., In New York it will be 4 p.m., and in Moscow it will be 8 a.m. There'll be some pain with the initial changeover, but from then on it's all good. Got a meeting with colleagues on the other side of the world? 4 a.m. means 4 a.m. for everyone. Got a flight landing at 3 p.m.? 3 p.m. now means 3 p.m. for everyone. For DST, you simply change your schedule rather than the clock (i.e. work and school starts an hour earlier during DST months). No confusion ever again. For someone whose work involves travel or communication across time zones, this is the best idea I've ever heard. So why aren't we doing it?"
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Ask Slashdot: Could We Deal With the End of Time Zones?

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:21PM (#37228974)

    Is this the type of crap we can come to expect now that CmdrTaco is gone?

  • by sam0737 (648914) <sam@@@chowchi...com> on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:22PM (#37228982)

    DST is a beast. Worse, the rules change over time!

  • by crow (16139) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:23PM (#37228986) Homepage Journal

    Do we really want the date to change in the middle of the day? No, that is not practical. Most of the world still runs based on sleeping when the sun is down, so the time zone system still works.

  • AM & PM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:23PM (#37228992)

    Scrap AM & PM - most people can figure out a 24 hour clock. Time zones, on the other hand, make perfect sense.

  • by Ark42 (522144) <slashdot@@@morpheussoftware...net> on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:23PM (#37228994) Homepage

    So why aren't we doing it? Because it's a stupid idea. We still want noon to be when the sun is overhead, and midnight to be the middle of the night. Internet be damned, it's arbitrarily more convenient for most people, because most people don't travel all that often, and spend most of their time in their local time zone.

  • by lattyware (934246) <gareth@lattyware.co.uk> on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:27PM (#37229044) Homepage Journal
    But noon and midnight can still mean those things - they just don't have to mean 12am and 12pm any more.
  • by FranTaylor (164577) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:27PM (#37229050)

    Our computer clocks are all using UTC already

    The displayed time is adjusted to local time for the benefit of us humans

    We can say "the best time to feed the animals is at 4 PM" and that applies to everyone on the planet. With your scheme we would have to give a much longer-winded explanation.

  • Re:Why not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by YodasEvilTwin (2014446) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:27PM (#37229052) Homepage
    The rest of the world had no problem...
  • by impaledsunset (1337701) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:31PM (#37229114)

    With time zones you can simply look up the time at a given location to know which part of the day it is, time corresponding to a part of the day is extremely useful, especially when you're moving through different countries or working with foreign people. It's much easier to change the time zone of your clock than to adjust to a day that starts at 16 o'clock. The different time zones give you more information, and given that most electronic devices can convert between them easily and display multiple at the same time, it's not really harmful.

    DST is the beast that needs to die, because it makes it hard to represent the exact time me with the local time plus a simple offset. After DST dies, we should try to deal with unusual time zones that do not match the local solar mean time that you have in countries like Russia or offsets that have half an hour in them like you have in Iran.

    If time zones make it difficult for you, work on the better integration of the tools dealing with them.

  • Re:Why fix it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:32PM (#37229120)

    Yeah. Why bother trying to improve anything? If it isn't completely broken, don't try to fix it.

  • by impaledsunset (1337701) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:34PM (#37229144)

    Uh, the clock is just a number, if you believe the day should start earlier, talk to your management. Your colleagues would most likely disagree, but if they don't, you might convince them. It makes most sense if 12:00 is exactly at noon and the time matches the sun, not your work preferences.

  • by John3 (85454) <john3 AT cornells DOT com> on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:35PM (#37229162) Homepage Journal

    Wasn't time based on the rotation of the earth and the relative position of the sun in the sky? The hours of the day were tracked long before people started setting up multiple time zones...look at a sundial and there are numbers and those numbers were pretty much same. Time zones only date to the mid-1800's so they certainly aren't a "relic of the past".

    Don't get me wrong, there certainly are advantages to using a standard time (and plenty of scientific, military, and technical applications use either UTC or GMT), but the average person will want to track time in relationship to their day as they experience it. And face it, the average person does very little traveling, very little interaction with people outside their time zone, and probably never interacts with someone in a significantly different time zone (i.e. on the other side of the world).

  • by kaiidth (104315) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:36PM (#37229168)

    First thing that came to mind on reading this article was "1998 called, they want their suggestion back".

    Back in 1998 when the Web was new and cool, Swatch were attempting to market a metric alternative to the 24 hour clock, which they excitingly referred to as 'Internet Time'. It divided the day into 1,000 'beats', and was based around the Central European timezone (GMT + 1) on the basis that Swatch's headquarters are in Biel. Unsurprisingly, the concept went down like a lead balloon.

    FWIW, you'd have to think about different timezones anyway. No amount of universally-shared timezones are going to change the physical reality, so they may as well reflect it.

  • try 24h first (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Goalie_Ca (584234) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:42PM (#37229238)
    How about we first try and get america on the 24h clock. I noticed that even this crazy posting still listed things in am/pm.
  • by Baloroth (2370816) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:42PM (#37229240)

    Yep. If you need to communicate a certain time to someone around the globe, you just list the time in UTC (basically what this idea is anyways). Or they could just, you know, look up the time difference, this being the Internet and all.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:45PM (#37229294) Homepage Journal

    If you want to get up an hour early in the summer, get your ass out of bed!

    Why should the rest of us screw up our sleep rhythms because you don't want to reset your alarm clock?

  • by DragonHawk (21256) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @03:58PM (#37229450) Homepage Journal

    Submitter gets it wrong anyway. From TFS: "Time zones are a relic of the past, when different parts of the world were isolated, and 12 p.m. was whenever the sun was directly above your specific location."

    Um, no. Time zones were *created* to deal with the problem of local noon being whenever the sun was directly above your specific location. That's what the world used for thousands of years, until rapid transit and communications made that impractical. With the coming of railroads, for the first time, people were frequently outrunning the sun. Time zones became a necessity. You can't have a rail time table if everybody's clock is different.

    Also, I think the proposal is just moving the problem around. Currently we have to think, "Okay, they're 3 hours ahead of me, so 9 AM here is 12 PM there." With this proposal, we'd have to think, "Okay, they're 3 hours ahead of me, so when I'm starting work they're going to lunch".

    And nobody's stopping anyone from doing everything on UTC. I know at least one person who sets his schedule that way.

    DST -- as others have said -- that we can do without.

  • by lattyware (934246) <gareth@lattyware.co.uk> on Saturday August 27, 2011 @04:05PM (#37229544) Homepage Journal

    You are right, it's not solving a problem, it's changing it.

    Current system: If someone tells you the time, you know relatively what they will be doing at said time. You can't work out when that is without your timezone and their timezone.

    Other system: If someone tells you the timezone, you know when it is. You don't know what they'll be doing at the time unless you have their timezone, and you don't know what you'll be doing a the time unless you have your time zone.

    It's the same issues but in reverse. It's about what is more useful to know by default - and that varies from person to person.

  • Re:AM & PM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by doctormetal (62102) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @04:06PM (#37229554)

    AM and PM is stupid and can be confusing. People often mention the time and assume you know whether they mean AM or PM. Most countries use a 24 hour clock so ditch the 2*12 one. And also ditch the imperial system.

  • by zixxt (1547061) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @04:08PM (#37229576)

    The metric system is NOT metric is a totally superior system in every way. Its not even as good as the Babylonian base 60.

    "The metric system, being decimal, is not well-suited to working
            with fractions. Officially, you aren't even supposed to say
            "1/3 meter," but rather "333 milliliters." For everyday uses, such
            as cooking, it is much more natural to use fractions.

            Metric units are not always appropriate amounts for convenient
            use. The 2-liter bottle seems to have become "natural," but if you
            want to buy a single drink, it's easier to say "a pint" or even "a
            12-ounce cup" rather than "400 milliliters." The metric system's
            rigidity prevents designing units for convenience.

            These practical issues lead to the use of "folk units" alongside
            the official metric units, which can lead to conflict when laws
            are too rigid."

  • by rrossman2 (844318) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @04:11PM (#37229604)

    Either way, you have to know where you are to determine when stuff happens.

    For example, I'm on the east coast. I travel to California, set my clock back 3 hours (or for a cell phone it adjusts its self possibly.. some phones do some don't). I still know stores open at 8 or 10 am.. lunch is at 12, done working at 5.. stores close at 9.. etc.

    Now with the op's idea.. I have to constantly remember the stores open at 5am or 7am, lunch is at 9am, done working at 2pm, stores close at 6pm.. how is that *any easier*? Instead of changing one factor and the rest fall in place, you're now keep that one the "the same" and having to remember to adjust *all* of the rest that are typically a given constant.
    And if you can't figure out UTC +/- then you have other issues.

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @04:21PM (#37229684) Homepage Journal

    ...but if you want to buy a single drink, it's easier to say "a pint" or even "a 12-ounce cup" rather than "400 milliliters."

    What's wrong with saying 4 deciliters?

  • by jdpars (1480913) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @04:26PM (#37229724)
    If the US is doomed, then let it die. The entire point of our founders was that even "people this stupid" have the right to govern themselves. If you really don't believe that, then let the system kill itself off.
  • by Quiet Sound (586239) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @04:39PM (#37229840)
    Not all ideas deserve a long-winded, high brow response.
  • by myurr (468709) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @04:42PM (#37229864)

    The problem with the unification of time systems is that 4am may be 4am everywhere, but now you'd need to know if that was the middle of the day in New York or the middle of the night. You still need to know all the time differences to have any meaningful interaction with other people, so the problem is no simpler. If you go on holiday you still need to learn to get up at 4pm instead of 6am, and it won't be as simple as just changing your watch and trying to adjust to the normal localised times you'd do those things.

    So it's a whole load of pain changing the system for no gain, or even a step backwards. Woo.

  • by homey of my owney (975234) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @04:51PM (#37229932)
    I think you've confused your fantasy ideologues with our founders. Jefferson thought that only the elite were smart enough to vote and initially suggested excluding the rif-raf (that and the non-white and non-male folk). If your idea of democracy is "Let's reduce to the least common denominator, and if you don't like that, then let's fail", well then, indeed, the system will kill itself off. Oh, and on no time-zones: It seems a little self important to suggest that if I want a 3pm meeting then everybody can attend because it's 3pm everywhere. One time-zone means that *some* of us will need to be sleeping at 3pm.
  • by kbolino (920292) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @04:51PM (#37229934)

    Actually, the Federal government has every right to regulate its own agencies, which is all the time-keeping regulations do. They have no authority to tell you how to set your own clocks, nor do they even have any such laws. You have CHOSEN to use the same time convention, for reasons of convenience. Go ahead, set your clocks to whatever time you want, hell you can even invent your own clocks. I guarantee you they will not levy any fines, charge you with any crimes, nor make any other attempt to coerce you into adopting their system of keeping time.

    Don't be an idiot.

  • by Zombie (8332) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @05:26PM (#37230182) Homepage
    No, it just means you're old.
    Linux is twenty years old.
    The IBM-compatible PC is a relic.
    Modem handshake noise is no longer widely recognised.
    Most people using computers have never seen a text screen.
    And your UID has four digits, as does mine.
    Now let's kick those darn youngsters off our Slashdot!
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @05:31PM (#37230216)

    If they tell me to call at 1pm, I'll call them at 1pm. 1pm my time that is. If it's 3am for him, he will sure as hell learn the lesson to include the time zone if he happens to be in a different one.

  • by artor3 (1344997) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @06:06PM (#37230484)

    Whelp, an anonymous anarchist has given me an unsubstantiated account of what seems like the most tedious and trivial event in law enforcement history. Guess that proves it... the government is evil!

  • by cbiltcliffe (186293) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @06:45PM (#37230720) Homepage Journal

    We're not doing it because it's retarded. Somehow the submitter thinks this will help people who travel for business. Excuse me?

    When you land, you've got to say to yourself: "Ok...at home, I started work at 3AM, which was after the sun came up, so here, I have to get to work at....wait....what time does the sun rise here? 5PM? WTF?"

  • Re:Slow news day? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hedwards (940851) on Saturday August 27, 2011 @08:50PM (#37231376)

    What I'm curious about is how precisely this is any simpler than our current system. You do get the advantage of specifying a time that's globally valid, but for things that matter you still have to worry about what times are appropriate to expect a response from somebody in Georgia and depending upon which one the answer is likely to be different.

    The real problem is that when you're traveling you'd then have to learn what times everything is done or convert those times to ones your familiar with, rather than the current system where most of those times are the same, just happen earlier or later with respect to your home.

    The current system we have works in the instances where one needs that sort of coordination we've got GMT and UTC available.

  • by Thangodin (177516) <elentar.sympatico@ca> on Saturday August 27, 2011 @09:11PM (#37231464) Homepage

    Bingo. When you go to a different place, you don't want to be somewhere where the sun rises at 11 PM and sets at 12 AM. You want a normal day, and the timezone tells you what the range of that day is. Timezones don't interfere with travel, they facilitate travel.

    Look, can we just start ignoring libertarians? I mean, when someone is wrong once, you shrug. When they're wrong ten times, you raise an eyebrow. But when they're wrong hundreds of times, they need to be added to the twit filter. These people are the new bolsheviks, who also promised that the state would vanish under their leadership. Never trusted the communists, don't trust the libertarians. Same shit, different bucket.

  • Re:Slow news day? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @05:40PM (#37236570)

    Exactly. Suppose you're sitting in your New York office, and you want to call a colleague in an office in California, and you have to determine if now is a good time to call or not.

    The way it is now, you look at your clock, see it's 10AM, and then mentally calculate the timezone difference: EDT is 3 hours offset from PDT. So it's 7AM in California, and now is probably too early to call your colleague, as he's probably still at home or on the way to work (or maybe still sleeping, depending on when he gets in).

    Under a timezone-less scheme, you'd have a harder time, because there's no time zones to help you quickly calculate offsets. Instead, you'll think to yourself, "well, back when we had time zones, California was 3 hours apart from us, so it's like it's 7AM over there, so this is too early." But what happens in 20+ years when a younger generation comes along that doesn't remember the old time zone system? How exactly are they supposed to know that California is (roughly) three hours behind the east coast, and that it's now customary in California to start work at 5AM and leave at 2PM (unless they frequently communicate with people from there and remember this fact)? Do they have to start up some web application to tell them this? I suppose this would be one solution, but it seems pretty ridiculous when we already have a system now that doesn't require a constant internet connection or a nearby computer to tell us such a simple bit of information.

    With time zones, all I have to remember is the GMT offsets of every place I'm interested in, and it's trivial for me to calculate local times for those places, which means I know what time most places start business and close business. Without time zones, I'll have to do a lookup for everything. Maybe if we get to the point where we all have constant internet connections wired into our brains, then they'll truly be obsolete, but not before then.

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