Swatch Internet Time

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Logo of the Swatch Internet Time

Swatch Internet Time (or beat time) is a decimal time concept introduced in 1998 and marketed by the Swatch corporation as an alternative, decimal measure of time. One of the goals was to simplify the way people in different time zones communicate about time, mostly by eliminating time zones altogether.

Instead of hours and minutes, the mean solar day is divided up into 1000 parts called ".beats". Each .beat lasts 1 minute and 26.4 seconds. Times are notated as a 3-digit number out of 1000 after midnight. So, @248 would indicate a time 248 .beats after midnight representing 248/1000 of a day, just over 5 hours and 57 minutes.

There are no time zones in Internet Time; instead, the new time scale of Biel Mean Time (BMT) is used, based on Swatch's headquarters in Biel, Switzerland and equivalent to Central European Time, West Africa Time, and UTC+1. Unlike civil time in most European countries, Internet Time does not observe daylight saving time.

History

Swatch Internet Time was announced on October 23, 1998, in a ceremony at the Junior Summit '98, attended by Nicolas G. Hayek, President and CEO of the Swatch Group, G.N. Hayek, President of Swatch Ltd., and Nicholas Negroponte, founder and then-director of the MIT Media Lab. During the Summit, Swatch Internet Time became the official time system for Nation1, an online country created and run by children.

Uses

A Swatch watch showing .beat time in the bottom part of the display

During 1999, Swatch produced several models of watch, branded "Swatch .beat", that displayed Swatch Internet Time as well as standard time, and even convinced a few websites (such as CNN.com) to use the new format.[citation needed] The clock applet in the GNOME desktop can be set to display time in this manner.[1] PHP's date() function has a format specifier 'B' which returns the Swatch Internet Time notation for a given time stamp. It is also used as a time reference on ICQ, and the online role-playing game Phantasy Star Online has used it since its launch on the Dreamcast in 2000 to try to facilitate cross-continent gaming (as the game allowed Japanese, American and European players to mingle on the same servers). In March 2001, Ericsson released the T20e, a mobile phone which gave the user the option of displaying Internet Time. Outside these areas, however, it appears to be infrequently used. While Swatch still offers the concept on its website, it no longer markets beat watches.

Beatnik satellite controversy

In early 1999, Swatch began a marketing campaign based around the launch of their Beatnik satellite for a set of Internet Time watches. However, they were criticized for planning to use an amateur radio frequency for broadcasting a commercial message (an act banned by international treaties). Swatch reallocated the transmitter batteries to a different function on the MIR space station, thus the satellite never broadcast.[2]

Description

Beats

Instead of hours and minutes, the mean solar day is divided up into 1000 parts called ".beats". Each .beat lasts 1 minute and 26.4 seconds. Although Swatch does not specify units smaller than one .beat, third party implementations have extended the standard by adding "centibeats" or "sub-beats" as a decimal fraction, for extended precision: @248.00.[3][4]

Time zones

There are no time zones; instead, the new time scale of Biel Mean Time (BMT) is used, based on the company's headquarters in Biel, Switzerland. Despite the name, BMT does not refer to mean solar time at the Biel meridian, but is equivalent to Central European Time and West Africa Time or UTC+1.

Like UTC, Swatch Internet Time is the same throughout the world. For example, when the time is 875 .beats, or @875, in New York, it is also @875 in Tokyo: 0.875 × 24 hours = 21:00 BMT = 20:00 UTC. Unlike civil time in most European countries, Internet Time does not observe daylight saving time and thus it matches Central European Time during (European) winter and Western European Summer Time, which is observed by the United Kingdom, Ireland, Portugal and the Canary Islands (Spain), during summer.

Notation

The most distinctive aspect of Swatch Internet Time is its notation; as an example, "@248" would indicate a time 248 .beats after midnight, equivalent to a fractional day of 0.248 CET, or 04:57:07.2 UTC. No explicit format was provided for dates, although the Swatch website formerly displayed the Gregorian calendar date in the order day-month-year, separated by periods and prefixed by the letter d (d31.01.99).

Time unit conversion

Unit Beat Conversion
1 day 1000 .beats
1 hour 41.666 .beats
1 min 0.6944 .beats
1 s 0.01157 .beats

See also

References

  1. ^ "Gnome clock applet keys". Gnome clock applet keys.
  2. ^ "Hams jam space spam". BBC News. 1999-04-16. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  3. ^ "Nucleus Plugin: NP_InternetTime". TeRanEX Wiki.
  4. ^ "iBeat". Archived from the original on 2007-10-08.

External links