February 26, 1999

In his book, Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace sets the novel sometime in the near future. We don't know actually when because our numeric designations have been replaced by 'subsidized time'.

And now all I can say is, is it the 'Year of the Depends Undergarment' already?

Introducing... Swatch Internet Time

Internet Time represents a completely new global concept of time. So what is the deal? Basically, the Swatch Beat, the revolutionary new unit of time means the following:
No Time Zones - No Geographical Borders

How long is a Swatch beat? In short we have divided up the virtual and real day into 1000 "beats". One Swatch beat is the equivalent of 1 minute 26.4 seconds. That means that 12 noon in the old time system is the equivalent of @500 Swatch beats.

Okay, so how can a surfer in New York, or a passenger on a transatlantic flight know when it is @500 Swatch Beats in Central Europe for example? How can the New York surfer make a date for a chat with his cyber friend in Rome? Easy, Internet Time is the same all over the world.

How is this possible? We are not just creating a new way of measuring time, we are also creating a new meridian in Biel, Switzerland, home of Swatch. Biel Mean Time (BMT) will be the universal reference for Internet Time. A day in Internet Time begins at midnight BMT (@000 Swatch Beats) (Central European Wintertime).

The BMT meridian was inaugurated on 23 October 1998 in the presence of Nicholas Negroponte, founder and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Laboratory.

Do you want to know what time it is?

Basically, Swatch Internet Time is useful pretty much only of use to Internet chat fiends who have the technical savvy to use Internet Relay Chat to chat with geeks around the world but not savvy enough to figure out how to calculate UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). UTC, incidentally, involves knowing your time zones and basic addition and subtraction skills.

So we really don't *need* Swatch Internet Time - we just need a small program that either comes with our operating system on our computer, or comes with our browser, that automatically calculates what our local time translates into UTC. And because that doesn't exist yet, there is a window of opportunity for Swatch Internet Time to actually take off. Not that it's likely as the only sites I know that make seriously use SWT is CNN (2000 update: no longer!)and, of course, Swatch.

As an aside, I heartedly recommend a visit to the Swatch website if just to read the 'Beatnik Comments'. Swatch is currently collecting statements to be transmitted through space via a satellite to be launched in April, 1999. The only stipulation is that the statement must contain the word 'beat' - a stipulation which is largely ignored.

Most of the messages are warmly ridiculous although every once in a while you find some half-wit sophisticate going for overkill.