Recently I've become a little obsessed by a handful of uncommon methods of transcribing the date and time. Perhaps it's because I bought myself an Apple watch recently (so I can play with how I read the time), but I've always enjoyed learning about time, and how we humans love to try and parcel it up.

There are three novelties I've been enjoying, the Human Era calendar, the International Fixed Calendar, and Swatch Internet Time.

As I write this it is the year 2023, June 18th, at roughly 8:30 am (or 08:00, as I tend to write it).

Right now, with these three uncommon time systems, it is the year 12,023, Sol 1st, at roughly @395โ€ฆ

The human era

This proposed year-numbering system puts the year zero at a convenient point very near the begining of the Holocene (our current geological epoch), instead of the birth of Jesus, as used in our standard Gregorian calendar.

The effect is simple: add 10,000 years to the current date โ€” an extra "1" at the front of any CE year.

Right now it is year 12,023 of the Human Era.

There's few better places to learn about something than the Kurzgesagt โ€” In a Nutshell Youtube channel, and their explainer on the Human Era calendar is no exception. Go have a watch, I'll wait!

I really like this year-numbering system โ€” it's easy to adopt (and un-adopt for others), it brings all humanity together (regardless of religious beliefs), and it brings the monumental efforts of our ancestors closer to us. We build on the shoulders of giants (always).

The international fixed calendar

This reformed calendar changes what month and day it is at any given moment of the year. In 1902 (ahem 11,902) a British accountant made the (very reasonable!) proposal that months should all be the same length, exactly 4 weeks. This required a thirteenth month, named Sol, placed between June and July.

Right now it is Sunday Sol 1st in the International Fixed Calendar.

This change, Cotsworth claimed, would bring much-needed simplicity to defining timespans in industry and commerce, where computers didn't yet exist to trivially tell you what day of the week it was this time next month or year.

It also brought another few interesting things to the table:

  • The 1st of every month is a Sunday, the 2nd always a Monday, and so on. Always, in every year.
  • 4 weeks for every month means regular monthly bills and paychecks will always be exactly the same.
  • Statistical comparisons between months are more accurate (the proportion of week and weekend days is the same between months, always)
  • Moveable public holidays (like the US' Thanksgiving, which always sits on a Thursday) have a fixed date too.

The eagle-eyed among you might wander what happens on leap years, and point out that 28 times 13 is only 364 days anyway. One of my favourite parts of the IFC is how the weekdays stay aligned โ€”ย both problems handled by 1 or 2 special days each year.

Firstly, the last day of the year is always "Year Day" and, though computer systems might record it as December 29th, it technically sits aside from any month. Similarly, on leap years (decided as with Gregorian calendar leap years), there's an extra day after June 28th that's also attached to no month, being called "Leap Day". These two days are always public holidays.

Oddly enough the Eastman Kodak Company (or Kodak as we'd all know it) used the International Fixed Calendar between 1928 and 1989 for everything it did.

(Check out this great free app for viewing the current IFC date on your iPhone or recent Mac)

Swatch Internet Time (.beat time)

This way of writing time, proposed by the Swatch corporation in 1998, was made as something of a marketing gimmick, it appears.

Right now it is @395, .beat time.

Simply enough, there are 1,000 ".beats" in a day, written as a three digit whole number preceded by an @ symbol. @0 occurrs at midnight in the UTC+1 timezone, which is the same timezone used by Swatch's headquarters in Biel, Switzerland (when it's not in daylight saving's time).

Though it's not my favourite of these uncommon date/time-writing methods, I find it fascinating that it effectively used French revolutionary decimal time, and expressed a belief of what the internet would become that's so much more futuristic than the almost invisible mundanity it is today, 25 years later.

(Check out this great free app for viewing the current .beat time on your iPhone or recent Mac)

That's enough weird ways of writing time for now. One of these days I'll figure out how to bend the software I use to build this blog to my will, and have it (optionally ๐Ÿ˜…) display the dates and times with these uncommon writing systems!