Instant expert: Time zones
Celebrating the anniversary of this little-loved but oh so useful invention
“Let’s do the time zone again...” Err, you’ve got the lyrics of the Rocky Horror Picture Show classic slightly wrong. You’re right, though, we are talking time zones; specifically, the first ones that were introduced in the USA in 1883.
Seems quite recent. How did people keep time before?
Everything from the sundial to a water clock, a tool first used by the Ancient Egyptians, were still in popular use until the early 1800s, when pendulum and spring mechanism clocks became more common.
So why bring in time zones?
The advancement of better transport meant people were covering longer distances in shorter times. The trigger was the US railway industry, which learned that schedules plus hundreds of individually timed US cities equalled plenty of headscratching passengers.
Uh-oh. What happened next?
Four time zones were created across
Despite their vast size, both India and China only operate under one time zone each.
continental USA in 1883 to restore order to the railroad. While Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) had been in use in the UK since 1847, this was the first time separate zones had been employed. It would soon become the catalyst for world time regulation, with GMT adopted as the international standard a year later. By the turn of the 20th century, time zones were firmly established.
Great. But what has this got to do with travellers?
We thought you’d say that. Remarkably, some places have swapped time zones to boost tourism. The Mexican state of Quintana Roo and Turks and Caicos islands shifted an hour ahead in 2015 to add an extra hour of sunshine to their afternoons – a move specifically aimed at travellers. Even the UK has considered moving in front of GMT all year around and not just during British Summer Time. Thankfully those suggestions have never really been taken seriously. It sounds bonkers to us...