Internet Time: Will the 'beat' go on?
February 26, 1999
(CNN) -- You can tell what time it is right now by a glance at your watch. But what time is it in Ankara, Bangkok or Cali? That takes a bit of figuring. Now a Swiss watch company and one of the world's premier Internet authorities have come up with a way to put the entire world into one time zone.
They call it Internet Time, and here's how it works: Swatch has divided the virtual and real day into 1,000 "beats". One Swatch beat is the equivalent of 1 minute 26.4 seconds. That means that noon in the old time system is the equivalent of @500 Swatch beats.
The thinking is that the world can get together on the Internet and not have to calculate differences between time zones.
"It's a clever idea," says U.S. software developer Peter Bernard. "I mean we have developers in London and Geneva, and I guess it could come in handy if I wanted to call them at a certain time and not wake them up or something."
Bernard was impressed enough to shell out $80 for Swatch's new Internet Beat watch.
But wait a second. Er ... beat. Don't we already have a universal time standard, known as Greenwich Mean Time?
But hardly anyone uses GMT outside of professional contexts. That's why MIT's Nicholas Negroponte, one of the fathers of the Internet, is backing the "beat."
Swatch says it had 40 million hits on its Internet Time home page in December, and 30,000 downloads of free software that lets you count Internet beats on your desktop.
The reaction on the streets: Some love it, others think it's just plain cuckoo.
"Me, as a tourist now, I'm always confused with the time zones and everything," says one man we spoke to on the street. "So if you have one time, I think that's perfect, that's one of the best ideas I ever heard of."
Others on the street questioned the usefulness of the new time in their personal lives.
So is Internet Time ready for prime time? For Yann Gamard, Swatch president and CEO, such a question is slightly beside the point.
"We are trying to provoke the world in the third millennium," Gamard says. "Why do we need it? It's because there was something missing there."
Perhaps in time, the Internet Beat will be replaced or forgotten. But it has already caused a lot of people to rethink something fundamental. The Internet has a way of doing that.
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