Time zones were invented to reduce confusion

It can be inconvenient if you've missed a telephone conference because you forgot that 9:00 a.m. in Chicago is 7:00 a.m. in Los Angeles and 10:00 a.m. in New York City.

Time zones are supposed to keep our clocks consistent with solar time wherever we are on the planet. Solar time changes as you move even a short distance from one place to another. It was invented to help reduce confusion rather than cause it.

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Why Aren't We All on the Same Time Zone?

science.howstuffworks.com

  • Confusion about the exact time only became a problem in the 1800s, when railroad trains made it possible to travel from one place to the next.
  • People were missing trains, and near misses and train collisions started to take place.
  • In the US, 300 local time zones existed, but the railroads eventually condensed it down into 100.
  • Finally, in 1876, Scottish-born engineer Sir Sandford Fleming devised a system in which the world was divided into 24 time zones, spaced at about 15 degree intervals.

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Time was based on how many time zones separated a location from the Royal Greenwich Observatory in the UK. Greenwich Mean Time was determined by the average time of day when the sun passed over the Prime Meridian at Greenwich.

On Nov. 18, 1883, railroads in North America converted to a system of just over four time zones: eastern time, central time, mountain time, and Pacific time. Eventually, it became the standard across the U.S.

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Even with fewer time zones, time confusion arose again in the 20th century. Air travel, the internet and mobile devices gave us a 24-7 culture in which we're tightly interconnected to events in other parts of the world.

Another solution was proposed: Abolishing time zones and putting the entire world on universal time (UTC). Under this system, it's 9:00 everywhere on the planet, even if it's morning in one place and evening in another.

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The switch to universal time has already taken place. Pilots and air traffic controllers in the U.S. rely on universal time. So do financial traders who deal across time zones. The internet essentially runs on universal time.

The switch to universal time may cause initial disruption. People say, 'if we went universal time, that would mean we'd have to open businesses when it's dark outside.' In reality, your business would go on with the sun, as usual.

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