In­stant ex­pert: Time zones

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Contents -

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...

Just in time The in­tro­duc­tion of time zones be­came a must as in­ter­na­tional travel be­came com­mon

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