Decimal Time

I’m sure that there’s a time in everyones life when they get frustrated with the way we measure time. It may well have been very convenient for the Babylonians, with their love of fractions to have so many sixties all over the place (60 has a lot of divisors), but us modern folks tend to prefer doing things in terms of 10s or 100s.

The first time this annoyed me I quickly worked out what I thought a metric time system would look like, and wrote a program for my RiscPC in Basic that showed two clock faces, one for the standard and one for my version of decimalised time. Today I thought I’d revisit it, so here it is in javascript and canvas (if it doesn’t display the numbers on the clock face, that’s because you’re using an old browser).:

The second equivalent is 864 milliseconds, which allows us to have 100 second-equivalents in a minute-equivalent, 100 minute-equivalents in an hour-equivalent and 10 hour-equivalents in a day. I figured that days better stay the same length, because it’s handy for organisational purposes. I’ve put the 0 point at midnight, and because the whole 24 hours is once round a face, I’ve made the bottom half roughly correspond to night, and the top half roughly correspond to day.

I did come up with alternative names – I called the second equivalents sonds, the minute equivalents mintes and the hour equivalents hurs. 1 sond is 0.864 seconds, 1 minte is 1 minute 26 seconds, 1 hur is 2 hours 24 minutes. But the idea really is to stop using the current system and use a decimalised one so you don’t even really need to convert between the two.

It’s very easy to do maths with this system because numbers carry in the expected way, so 1:78:33 + 40:90 = 2:19:23.

When I first did it, the possibility of using it in everyday life was very slim – I would have needed a custom watch. Now I don’t have a watch, I use my phone instead, and it’d be fairly easy to write a widget for it that displays the decimalised time.