It's About Time

This essay is about time — not in that I haven't written anything for a while, but instead of how time is represented. There is no followed standard time, in neither calendar nor clocks.

Gregorian Time

You see, in European-ish countries, the largest, commonly used time representation is the century, which is ten decades, which is ten years. A year is equal to a few things: for the pedants, it is equal to 365.276… days; for the common person, it is equal to 356 days; and for the high school student, it is equal to the length of time a grade-level lasts.

A day, as it is commonly represented in European-ish places, it equal to either the time between sun-rise and sun-set, or 23 hours, 56 minutes, and a good amount of seconds. This is commonly abbreviated to 24 hours.

Each day is broken down into (almost) 24 hours of equal length. There are two popular ways of representing these: the most popular, for some unknown reason, is to start at the first hour of the 23.56… hour day as one, and to reset to one after reaching twelve (also known as noon). The correct way to represent 24 hours is to start at zero at the beginning(not first hour) of a 23.56… day and increment to the beginning of the next day.

All traditional hours are broken down into 60 equal minutes. A minute is broken down into 60 equal seconds. Seconds are broken down into tenths from here-on down: six-tenths of a second, forty-three-hundredths of a second, etc..

Metric Time

This is all based on the Gregorian calendar, which, in turn, is based on the Julian calendar. However, base-ten (metric) is creeping up on us, and time is no distinction. Why not break time into ten equal parts, and break each equal parts into ten equal parts, and so on? I like it!

Metric time, however, causes problems for some people. Metric time is based on only one piece of nature, the sun's rising and setting (although I think this should be done away with). There are no other cycles that people can use for reference, such as the returning of crops or the weather. People just need to be accustomed to a lack of cycles.

Representation of Time

There are many ways time is represented, which causes all sorts of problems. In the United States of America, the year, day, and a subdivision of the year known as the month are written as month/day/last two digits of the year. There are twelve unequal months in a year, based on the phases of the moon. In Europe, the year, month, and day are traditionally written as day/month/last two digits of the year. The two obvious problems are the year 2000, where the last two digits of the year can be ambiguous; and sharing dates between continents.

Gregorian time within a day is written as hh:mm[:ss] (AM|PM), where hh is the hour, mm is the minute, ss is the optional second. "AM" is post-pended if the time is in the first half of the day, other wise "PM". The other, more correct way is HH:mm[.ss], where HH is the hour in 24-hour format.

I write the time [yyyyMMdd][HHmm[ss]], where yyyy is the full year; MM is the month number, starting at one, dd is the day within the month, starting at one; HH is the hour in 24-hour format; mm is the minute; and ss is the second. For example, the tenth minute of the nineteenth hour of the twenty-third day of the tenth month of the 1999th year would be written as 199910231910. Quick and to the point.

How do you write the time? Send me your ideas and I'll post them here (with credit, of course, unless otherwise specified).


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Mike Burns <>