J Thomas on October 09, 2010, 09:20:22 am
Quote
Since you mention time zones, it is fair to say that railroads voluntarily chose to adopt uniform time zones, instead of the local time in each of hundreds of different cities and towns along the way.

Yep. Precisely. And that was a big step towards unity.

Of course, before railroads it didn't matter. If it takes you days to get very far, you might as well consider noon to be when the sun is at its highest wherever you happen to be.

Railroads invented "railroad time" for their own convenience, and then they foisted it off on everybody else.

If the british government had been paying attention, they might have set Greenwich time as the one true time all over their empire, and maybe got everybody else to go along with that. I'm sure the railroads everywhere would have been fine with it.Then we'd be spared the stupid time zones etc. But instead they muddled through.

SandySandfort on October 09, 2010, 09:49:58 am
Railroads invented "railroad time" for their own convenience, and then they foisted it off on everybody else.

Another wiggle word, JThomas? Dictionary.com says:

foist
1.
to force upon or impose fraudulently or unjustifiably (usually fol. by on or upon): to foist inferior merchandise on a customer.
2.
to bring, put, or introduce surreptitiously or fraudulently (usually fol. by in or into): to foist political views into a news story.

Who do you thing the railroads are, the government? Please tell us by which definition the railroads "foisted" their internal time standard on "everyone else"? Or did you just mean, the general public recognized the value of having a consistent time standard and voluntarily became "free riders" on the railroads' time system?

quadibloc on October 09, 2010, 10:06:10 am
Or did you just mean, the general public recognized the value of having a consistent time standard and voluntarily became "free riders" on the railroads' time system?
It could have been that the general public recognized the value of being able to show up on time to catch a train, and so if the railroads were too lazy to publish schedules which followed the local times in actual use in communities, people may not really have had much choice in the matter.

The standard time system would have had value to some people - astronomers would have enjoyed the ability to convert civil time to GMT merely by subtracting an integer number of hours - but in those days, they didn't have the Internet, there wasn't a lot of business being conducted by telephone, and so for the clock in any given city to correspond as closely as possible to the Sun is, quite possibly, what people valued more.

Of course, in hindsight, Standard Time was a great gift to the world. But while this was a positive reform, we shouldn't harbor illusions about the ease of the transition - and so, even if "foist" might not be the word everyone would choose, that doesn't mean it's completely inappropriate.

J Thomas on October 09, 2010, 07:47:52 pm
Railroads invented "railroad time" for their own convenience, and then they foisted it off on everybody else.

Who do you thing the railroads are, the government? Please tell us by which definition the railroads "foisted" their internal time standard on "everyone else"? Or did you just mean, the general public recognized the value of having a consistent time standard and voluntarily became "free riders" on the railroads' time system?

It looks to me like -- at the time -- the only value of railroad time was to deal with railroads. It wasn't particularly an issue for anything else.

When we got radio then people would want to know when their favorite radio shows would start, and those shows could come from distant communities. And when we got long distance telephones it was useful to sychronise times.

But railroads were the first. Unless you needed to meet a railroad schedule, it didn't matter.

Quote
The standard time system would have had value to some people - astronomers would have enjoyed the ability to convert civil time to GMT merely by subtracting an integer number of hours

Why would an astronomer care about civil time? He needs to know his precise longitude, and civil time could easily be as much as half an hour off.


SandySandfort on October 09, 2010, 11:16:28 pm
Railroads invented "railroad time" for their own convenience, and then they foisted it off on everybody else.

Who do you thing the railroads are, the government? Please tell us by which definition the railroads "foisted" their internal time standard on "everyone else"? Or did you just mean, the general public recognized the value of having a consistent time standard and voluntarily became "free riders" on the railroads' time system?

It looks to me like -- at the time -- the only value of railroad time was to deal with railroads. It wasn't particularly an issue for anything else.

So that is your defense of the use of the word "foisting"? Are you going to dodge every request for clarification? Try and focus, JThomas. You said "foist." Did you mean it? If so, what dictionary definition (not your "It looks to me..." obfuscation). Did the railroads foist railroad time on everyone or not? Yes or no. Support you lame assertion for Chaos sake! I am really getting tired of your unsupported and undefended nonsense. Don't be such a coward.

J Thomas on October 10, 2010, 04:28:19 am
Railroads invented "railroad time" for their own convenience, and then they foisted it off on everybody else.

Who do you thing the railroads are, the government? Please tell us by which definition the railroads "foisted" their internal time standard on "everyone else"? Or did you just mean, the general public recognized the value of having a consistent time standard and voluntarily became "free riders" on the railroads' time system?

It looks to me like -- at the time -- the only value of railroad time was to deal with railroads. It wasn't particularly an issue for anything else.

So that is your defense of the use of the word "foisting"? Are you going to dodge every request for clarification? Try and focus, JThomas. You said "foist." Did you mean it? If so, what dictionary definition (not your "It looks to me..." obfuscation). Did the railroads foist railroad time on everyone or not? Yes or no. Support you lame assertion for Chaos sake! I am really getting tired of your unsupported and undefended nonsense. Don't be such a coward.

<sigh>

foist  (foist)
tr.v. foist·ed, foist·ing, foists
1. To pass off as genuine, valuable, or worthy: "I can usually tell whether a poet . . . is foisting off on us what he'd like to think is pure invention" (J.D. Salinger).
2. To impose (something or someone unwanted) upon another by coercion or trickery: They had extra work foisted on them because they couldn't say no to the boss.
3. To insert fraudulently or deceitfully: foisted unfair provisions into the contract.

I want mostly #2. Impose by coercion with elements of #1.

Throughout history "noon" was when the sun was highest. Clocks let people measure their day more precisely, and in fact far more precisely than they needed.

The railroads changed that. They didn't want to track local times so they didn't. People who depended on trains could also depend on their clocks, and this was in fact the main thing that precise clocks were good for at that time, not counting specialist uses like navigation. Of course, for a good long time different railroads used different times, which was convenient for each individual railroad but for nobody else. They eventually settled on a single system for more than 90% of railroad stations. And then the government more or less adopted the railroad time.

It was convenient for railroads to change times by one hour at more-or-less arbitrary locations. It was not then and is not now particularly convenient for anybody else. And of course government regulation. Look what a mess it turned into!

http://www.timezonedistance.com/

quadibloc on October 10, 2010, 05:15:59 am
Why would an astronomer care about civil time? He needs to know his precise longitude, and civil time could easily be as much as half an hour off.
Well, in addition to knowing longitude, he would want to record when things happen, not just where they happen.

An astronomer might use local solar time to calculate local sidereal time, to know in which direction to point his telescope at a certain star. But GMT is also of importance - one can derive local solar time from that, knowing one's longitude - but besides that, if something happens in the sky, GMT, now known as UT, is the unambigous way of recording when it happened. Aside from rare events like novas, one would use GMT to calculate planetary and lunar positions, phenomena of the moons of Jupiter, and things like that.

J Thomas on October 10, 2010, 05:50:53 am
Why would an astronomer care about civil time? He needs to know his precise longitude, and civil time could easily be as much as half an hour off.
Well, in addition to knowing longitude, he would want to record when things happen, not just where they happen.

An astronomer might use local solar time to calculate local sidereal time, to know in which direction to point his telescope at a certain star. But GMT is also of importance - one can derive local solar time from that, knowing one's longitude - but besides that, if something happens in the sky, GMT, now known as UT, is the unambigous way of recording when it happened. Aside from rare events like novas, one would use GMT to calculate planetary and lunar positions, phenomena of the moons of Jupiter, and things like that.

Yes, he needs local time and he needs GMT. If he knows his precise longitude he knows how to convert from one to the other easily. What is the mishmash of time zones good for? Some places they follow state lines, other places they don't in confusing ways. Meanwhile all of china is on a single time zone, one that russia happens to skip.

If the railroads had settled on GMT, would we be any worse off? If it was 3:15 Green versus 8:27 o'clock, who would really care?

quadibloc on October 10, 2010, 10:49:01 am
What is the mishmash of time zones good for?
As a citizen of Canada, where "half an hour later in Newfoundland" jokes are familiar, I can answer that question. While I think it is true that at the time the railroads introduced Standard Time, it mainly served the needs of the railroads, this is no longer true today.

Today, it is very useful to have the convenience that just about wherever you go in the world, the local time can be expressed as Universal Time plus or minus an integer number of hours - with no odd minutes or seconds. A very few places have time zones that differ by a half-integer number of hours - such as Newfoundland. This way, local civil time is, in effect, really only another name for UT - noon UT is also 5 AM Mountain Standard Time, both are different names for the same moment.

SandySandfort on October 10, 2010, 01:48:56 pm
<sigh>

foist  (foist)
tr.v. foist·ed, foist·ing, foists
1. To pass off as genuine, valuable, or worthy: "I can usually tell whether a poet . . . is foisting off on us what he'd like to think is pure invention" (J.D. Salinger).
2. To impose (something or someone unwanted) upon another by coercion or trickery: They had extra work foisted on them because they couldn't say no to the boss.
3. To insert fraudulently or deceitfully: foisted unfair provisions into the contract.

I want mostly #2. Impose by coercion with elements of #1.

<sigh> So where is the coercion? Where is the trickery? What is your evidence that it was unwanted? What is your evidence that railroad time was not genuine, valuable or worthy?

People who depended on trains could also depend on their clocks, and this was in fact the main thing that precise clocks were good for at that time...

So people who voluntarily did business with the railroad, voluntarily used railroad time. The horror! And what about the people who didn't do business with the railroad? They decided to use railroad time because...?

They eventually settled on a single system for more than 90% of railroad stations. And then the government more or less adopted the railroad time.

So it was the government that actually did coerced everyone into adopting the same time system. Sounds as though your beef is with government.  :P

quadibloc on October 10, 2010, 02:31:39 pm
Sounds as though your beef is with government.
I'll wait until daylight savings time comes along to be indignant at government coercion.

Laziness and using market power - of course, we can blame government for letting the railroads be monopolies - is open to criticism. I agree that Standard Time is a good thing, but I see no reason to dispute the suspicion that at the time of its introduction, it was not regarded as worth the bother by most people. Although setting one's clock forwards or backwards about half an hour, once, isn't much bother either, compared to daylight savings time.

It may have been foisted on the public, but ultimately it turned out to be for the best. And the fact that this happened before governments got into the act was a good thing too; imagine if we lived in a world where there were two systems of time zones - one based on the meridian of Greenwich, and another one based on the meridian of Paris, about 9 minutes and 20 seconds ahead.

J Thomas on October 10, 2010, 04:30:25 pm
What is the mishmash of time zones good for?
As a citizen of Canada, where "half an hour later in Newfoundland" jokes are familiar, I can answer that question. While I think it is true that at the time the railroads introduced Standard Time, it mainly served the needs of the railroads, this is no longer true today.

Today, it is very useful to have the convenience that just about wherever you go in the world, the local time can be expressed as Universal Time plus or minus an integer number of hours - with no odd minutes or seconds. A very few places have time zones that differ by a half-integer number of hours - such as Newfoundland. This way, local civil time is, in effect, really only another name for UT - noon UT is also 5 AM Mountain Standard Time, both are different names for the same moment.

How is this useful, compared to having GMT time and, if desired, local time? The second way, if you want to coordinate with people elsewhere you use GMT. If you want to do something involving the local day you can use a local time if you want to, or you can notice how far from GMT you are. GMT is universal. What good is it to add local times which can be off as much as 3 hours from the sun, and which have irregular borders where they switch by one or more hours?

SandySandfort on October 10, 2010, 04:31:58 pm
I'll wait until daylight savings time comes along to be indignant at government coercion.

Every year, I am amazed that anyone thinks Daylight Savings Time makes sense. It saves no energy and induces artificial jet lag into students, workers and... drivers. I lived in Arizona which did not observe DST and I loved it. I now live in the tropics, so no DST here either. Woo hoo!

Laziness and using market power - of course, we can blame government for letting the railroads be monopolies...

Let them? Oh my, you had better read some history. Most railroads were monopolies because of government interference in the market. Most received land concessions and other subsidies from the government. That is not the free market.

One notable exception was J.J. Hill's Great Northern Railway. the only privately funded, and successfully built, transcontinental railroad in United States history. No federal land grants  where used during its construction, unlike every other transcontinental railroad built. It was one of the few transcontinental railroads to avoid receivership following the Panic of 1893. Now that is the free market!

macsnafu on October 11, 2010, 11:35:39 am
Now's as good as time as any to complain about Daylight Savings Time, I think.  I'm not even going to wait until we're off it, now that we have an extra long period of it.  Who do they think they're kidding with DST?  Do they really believe DST results in an energy savings?  End DST!
I love mankind.  It's PEOPLE I can't stand!  - Linus Van Pelt.

terry_freeman on October 11, 2010, 04:03:05 pm
Time zones are not merely of convenience to people on railroads; anybody who drives, bicycles, walks, or rides a horse can easily cross a time zone, and thereby need to set one's watch ahead or back one hour. This is more convenient than changing one's watch every time one enters another town.

Imagine that you (who live in West Town ) and your friend ( in East Town ) agree to meet in Center Town for lunch at noon. Before railroads standardized on time zones, you might need to ask "which noon?" - since you, your friend, and the restaurant would have slightly different times. It was common practice for each town to set their clocks to local time, according to the sun.

Railroads discovered a problem and solved it via voluntary methods. They did not foist their solution upon others; it was still possible to set one's watch to local time, and to adjust one's habits in order to make the train - it's easy to remember, for example, that the train time is offset 12 minutes from local time in West Town, if you like. But over time, enough people liked railroad time to, ah, use the force of government to impose that standard on everyone. So, if you have a beef, your beef is with government, not with the railroads.

And I certainly have a beef with DST. If you think it's a pain to deal with setting your bedside alarm back and forth, try being a system administrator dealing with hundreds or thousands of computers, when governments periodically tweak the DST rules back and forth for political reasons. It's a major task to update DST configuration files across a large number of computers, all of them alike only slightly different.

Back to the issue of local time - bad as it is to tweak DST files, if we did not have timezones, then each computer would have to know its local position, and would have slightly different time than fellow computers a few miles away, or some convention would have to be adopted to standardize time. There are protocols - such as NFS - which require computers to be in very close agreement as to what time it is. It is also a considerable advantage when correlating log events across multiple computers to have such agreement; that's why system administrators install, configure, and maintain NTP ( the Network Time Protocol.)