Monday, August 08, 2005

Why Was This Discussion Not Held Before?

Back when it was only being discussed, I had a post about why extending Daylight Savings Time was a bad idea. Now, after the energy bill has passed, CNN has a story about the trouble this change could cause. So why was this never mentioned before now? Duh! If you change what the official time is, there's a lot of stuff that would need to be fixed to pick up that change.

I'm not trying to be Chicken Little on this. I don't think the sky is falling. As Jonathan pointed out in his comment on my original post, Y2K was a lot of fuss and wasted money over what turned out to be a mostly minor problem. My point is that there wasn't much of a problem with Y2K because people started working on it a few years in advance. There was a lot of work put into fixing the problem. The success of that endeavor left some companies feeling they had been swindled into spending a lot of money on a minor problem. That could be why this problem is not receiving adequate attention.

One example of this in daily life is your VCR. Many VCRs automatically adjust for DST and there is no easy way to update how this is calculated. So you have it set up to record a show at 9:00 PM every Wednesday. When the new DST goes into effect, you have a couple of choices. First, you can manually adjust the time on your VCR. You look around your home to fix all the clocks that need manually set and notice the VCR time hasn't changed. So you set it ahead an hour. Three weeks later, you have to remember to set it back an hour because the VCR has adjusted itself to compensate for what was the old DST. The second option is to just update that recording time. Again, same problem. Three weeks later, you have to fix it again.

Then, of course, there are the mission critical large applications where exact timing is required. Let's say you work for a small company, and your direct deposit goes through at 5:00 PM. You also have a bill that gets automatically debitted at 5:30. If your company doesn't fix their computers, that 5:00 deposit would then become a 6:00 deposit. You end up with a $20 overdraft charge because your debit goes through before your deposit, even though both occur on the same day. (Yes, this has happened to me before, so it can happen.)

And let's not forget Canada. Currently, the Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific time zones are the same for the U.S. and Canada. If Canada chooses not to adopt the same changes, this could be a major hassle for scheduling. If you work in New York and schedule a teleconference with someone in Montreal, are you sure the time is the same? You're both on Eastern time, but those may be out of sync for 4 weeks out of the year.

I think the best quote in the CNN article comes from Lauren Wernstein, a veteran technologist (whatever that means): "Missiles won't be launching but it's still going to cause a lot of hassle." Where Y2K may have had a lot more hype than it actually deserved, this change is probably getting less notice than it deserves.


At 3:36 PM, Blogger the fiddlin' fool said...

I think they just need to get rid of switching back and forth altogether and make everything permanently DST. That would avoid all of this confusion!

Let's face it. We all hate those December days when the sun has set and gone at 4 PM. There's always plenty of morning light, even near winter solstice! So let's reclaim some of those early daylight hours that no one uses anyways!

Of course, this might cause you grief if you live near or to the west of your meridian (much of the Eastern time zone, except NE and New York), or if you are a farmer. Or the whole west coast. But hey... I live in Chicago, well east of our meridian. Making DST permanent would be beneficial to our economy. People wouldn't want to live on the West Coast anymore; they would all come flocking to the daylight epicenters: Chicago and New York!

At 2:56 PM, Blogger Michael said...

How about we get rid of that whole "time" thing altogether? It could always be 12:23 PM. That way, you would never have to worry about getting to the bank on time. Since they're open from 8-5 and it's always 12:23, they would never close! Think of the boost to our economy that would result from the extra income companies could make by always being open!


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