November 15, 1999 -- Newsletter #54

By Vince Barnes

November 15, 1999 -- Newsletter #54
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Greeting, Weekend Silicon Warriors,

Did you hear...

>Amazon is suing Barnes and Noble online over BN's new one-click ordering procedure. Amazon said they own the patent on the one-click method of purchasing while BN claims Amazon is just trying to set up a monopoly. The courts will have to sort it all out. I didn't know you could patent a click.

>And you thought eBay had some goofy stuff up for sale? Try Site owner Ron Harris is a fashion photographer who will auction the ovarian eggs of fashion models on his site for up to $150,000. Yep, you heard right. Mom can be a model for a tidy sum. It's only a matter of time before the tables are turned for male models. Hopefully the auctioned items will be sent overnight. Of course, that might cost a couple of bucks extra. Nah, just send them regular mail.

>The first of what is expected to be an annual study by Middleberg/Ross titled "The Broadcast Media in Cyberspace Study" found broadcast houses in the U.S. are just not taking to the Web like other businesses. The study found only 25% of radio and TV station are online. The authors of the study say that unless the broadcast media gets on the ball, they could be left behind or beaten out by smaller companies already streaming video and audio.

Now, on to today's topic...

Happy birthday to you...

Happy birthday to you...

Happy birthday, dear Internet Time...

Happy birthday to you!

On October 23rd of this year, the brainchild of Swatch and MIT, Internet Time, turned one year old. It was a messy party that left cake and ice cream on the walls and carpet. Not really, but it's fun image, don't you think?

What? You've never heard of Internet time?! Well, you're not alone. It hasn't been popular or overly used by the Weekend Silicon Warrior. A few colleagues I talked to knew about it, basically knew what it was, but didn't pay it much more attention than that.

I'll admit I don't use it myself, but I think it's a good idea so I thought I'd tell you about it, give you a method of finding out the Internet Time where you sit and let you decide for yourself.

First off, what is Internet Time?

On October 23rd, 1998, the watch company Swatch and MIT Media Laboratory's Nicholas Negroponte instituted a new method for looking at time. The method sees time without hourly time zones, or without doubling time for night and day (i.e., 9am and 9pm).

The closest example I could think of was the 24-hour military time format, but that still doesn't do the concept justice.

You might already know that the world's time zones basically begin and end at a point near London, England, called Greenwich. All time zones are set off of that point on the earth gaining hours as you travel west and losing hours as you travel east. The format breaks the world into 24 unequal sections representing the 24 hours of the day.

Internet Time does much the same thing except it does not use Greenwich. The zero point, or starting point, of Internet Time is at the Swatch headquarters in Biel, Switzerland. (Okay, okay, yes, there's some commercialism to this, but I still think it's a good idea.) That point on the earth is known as "000."

The world is then broken into 1000 sections, or "beats," as they're called, wrapping around and coming back to "000." Remember also that any time you denote a specific beat (or point), you start it with the @ insignia. So, that point in Biel, Switzerland, is shown as @000 in Internet Time.

So, how much is a beat? Well, it's measured in time and the world still works on a 24-hour system so immediately we should know that noon is halfway, thus @500. With me? So, we take 12 hours (or 720 minutes) and divide by 500 (plus some fancy math/time stuff) and we get a beat coming in at 1 minute 26.4 seconds.

I've tried doing this on a calculator and it gets rough because a minute is 60 units. I got correct answers when I took everything to seconds. Remember that since there are no time zones, this is all relative to the meridian. I keep it somewhat straight thinking of a grid across the world broken into 1000 beats. You look up as the earth turns and watch the number increase.

Let's say it's 1 pm. What does that mean in Internet Time? Well, we know that noon is @500 and 1 PM is 60 minutes, or 3600 seconds, after noon, so let's divide 1 minute 24.4, or 86.4 seconds into 3600 seconds. That gives us 41.66666666, so the Internet Time must be @541.67, or somewhere in that general area. I used a converter and it kept rounding off to about 42 beats an hour.

Yes, it gets rough to figure out. The best method is to have a conversion chart, or better yet, a running Internet Time clock. I happen to have one of those for you to view here:

It's done with an applet. If you'd like a copy, the applet is freeware and I offer a link to the page where you can download it from the page above.

The real sales pitch for Internet Time (at least what I saw) was that it is a time structure that can be used to set up chats and contacts around the globe because the time is the same all around the world. It's also fairly precise thanks to 1000 beats rather than 24 hours that are then broken down into 60 minutes and on and on.

Maybe we can stop getting into the conversations that go something like, "Okay, I'll call you at 10. That's 10 your time, which is 8 my time. Okay? So, it's 10, but 8 for me. Or would you rather I called at 9? My time, I mean."

I think we've all had one of those.

I think the only downfall of the time, in my opinion, is that it has those points. The time can actually be @224.45. That just doesn't sit right in my brain. I'm not sure why, but it doesn't. I guess I'd just rather wait for the beat to change. Heck, it's only 84.4 seconds.

So, will it work? Swatch sure hopes so. CNN has the Internet Time available on their home page every time I pop in. Swatch also has a full line of "Beat Watches" that digitally show both the actual time and the Internet Time.

I don't know that it will replace good old round-face clocks, but I think it's an interesting concept nonetheless.

What I'm interested in is leap beat. And daylight savings beat. I couldn't find anything that even showed Internet Time would be affected. That would be too bad. I love being allowed to sleep an extra 42 beats once a year. It lets me know Winter will be here soon. ;->


And that's that. Thanks again for reading.

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

And Remember: Since I dealt with time, here's a couple to keep in mind. January 1st, 2000, will not be the first day of the new millennium. That honor belongs to January 1st, 2001. There was no year 0, we started with 1. A thousand years must pass for a full century to be complete. Do the math. Also, there is no such thing as 12 pm or 12 am. Noon (meridian, pm means "post meridian") is the dividing point of the clock and midnight is the dividing point of the days. Picky, yes, but that's my job.... There is a system of timekeeping in Saudi Arabia where one resets the clocks to midnight each day at sunset. Imagine keeping things straight following that method.

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