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.beat time: for telling time on the Information Superhighway.
January 13, 2014 4:33 PM   Subscribe

"It’s 1999. Popular search engines include Yahoo! Lycos, and AOL. Cable and DSL are peeking their heads out into a world of dial-up. Netscape Navigator is on the decline, and Internet Explorer 5 is the new hotness. People are using terms like “World Wide Web” and “Information Superhighway.” And meanwhile, in the background, Swatch is undergoing a wildly hubristic attempt to reinvent the very nature of time..."

.beat time on Wikipedia.
A .beat time converter.
A recent discussion on Hacker news.

A few games on the Sega Dreamcast actually used .beat time. Most notably, Phantasy Star Online and Shenmue.

Previously, The death of Swatch founder.
More previously.
posted by hot_monster (42 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Omfg I remember that.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:34 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


PHP's time functions include support for Swatch time, for reasons I have never been able to fathom.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:36 PM on January 13 [10 favorites]


To be fair it was a magical time of superhuman powers to dare to dream ridiculously, stupidly big. I loved every second of pre-millennial tension.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:36 PM on January 13 [28 favorites]


How could PHP NOT support Internet Time?
posted by chrominance at 4:37 PM on January 13 [10 favorites]


Whenever anybody complains about how all servers should be set to GMT, I bring up Swatch time. Few people remember Swatch time. :(
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 4:43 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


Funny, I just bought my first Swatch since 1986 (?) yesterday. It is awesome, and tells time in the conventional, analog way.
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:45 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Swatch dreamed big in those days. They were also instrumental in the development of the Smart Car. As the story goes, Hayek (CEO of Swatch Group) insisted the car's name include the Swatch branding in some way: Swatch Car or similar. Their car-maker partner, Daimler-Benz, possessed some basic marketing competence and refused. The ultimate name was apparently an acronym for "Swatch Mercedes Art": SMART.
posted by zachlipton at 4:47 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


All I remember about swatches is that it was somehow fashionable in elementary school to wear like 4-5 of them at once on the same arm.

why though
posted by elizardbits at 4:49 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


cuz 80s
posted by symbioid at 4:57 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


There was this guy on an IRC channel I used to hang out in who always seemed to jump on and annoyingly make exclusive use of, non-standardized things ranging from mIRC's support for colors, to Hotline Connect, to this.

"Internet Time doesn't have time zones. If I tell someone to meet me here at @750 they don't have to worry about doing any conversions!"

'So why not just use GMT?'

"But it's Internet Time!"
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:57 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


Because it is actually pretty easy to convince elementary-aged kids that something is cool and once you've done that you can sell them 4-5x as many watches.
posted by ckape at 5:00 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


That's why we always layered 5 pair of Guess Jeans on top of each other, rotating forwards and backwards between each pair, Kriss Kross and Kross Kriss...
posted by symbioid at 5:02 PM on January 13


All I remember about swatches is that it was somehow fashionable in elementary school to wear like 4-5 of them at once on the same arm.

why though


Because Cindy Lauper.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:03 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


because fuck yeah
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:07 PM on January 13


All I remember about swatches is that it was somehow fashionable in elementary school to wear like 4-5 of them at once on the same arm.

why though


TIME GAUNTLETS
posted by jason_steakums at 5:07 PM on January 13 [15 favorites]


no fair ckape, no fair, but yeah, because what you said...
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:08 PM on January 13


All I remember about swatches is that it was somehow fashionable in elementary school to wear like 4-5 of them at once on the same arm.

why though


Don't look at me I wore a Benetton.
posted by peripathetic at 5:11 PM on January 13


Oh yeah, this activates the old nostalgia center of the brain. I was obsessed with the concept of decimal time back around '98, but came to it through Vernor Vinge's science fiction rather than Swatch. The concept must have been floating in the air, just waiting for people to adopt it.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:11 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


because fuck yeah

Fuck yeah... time?

The 80's were clearly dying for Tumblr.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:19 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Holy mackeral, I literally haven't thought about Swatch Time since... swatch time. Gosh, it brings back so many memories of geocities (html!) chat, the WhiteWolf roleplaying chatrooms, my faith in Dogpile as the best search engine, the loving squeals of the dial-up modem - a sequence of beeps I had memorised. Gnutella, Limewire.

The early web may have been as ugly as sin and slower than a stalactite, but it opened up such an exciting - riveting, really vista in my late highschool years.

Perhaps its my giddy nostalgia, but I seem to recall several weird things like this. Then again, the idea of watching video online was pretty weird, too...
posted by smoke at 5:24 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


To be fair it was a magical time of superhuman powers to dare to dream ridiculously, stupidly big.

ah yes, and never more ridiculous than ...

In January of 2001, word began to leak that Dean Kamen was working on something amazing that would change the world. If you were paying attention to tech news, you may recall it was everywhere. There was some book deal about it, and we were told that it was going to change the way cities were laid out and would absolutely revolutionize transportation. It had the blessing of Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos and John Doerr and was amazing. But no one knew what it was. Hell, it didn't even have a name. It was referred to either as IT or Ginger -- and there were all sorts of rumors about what IT might be. Eventually, of course, IT was revealed as the Segway.

gotta love those bubble years
posted by philip-random at 5:37 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


Anybody stopping to think about it for 0.05785 .beats would have realized it was a dumb idea.
posted by mazola at 5:38 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


I worked on Internet Explorer 5 and the Mac tech lead used to wear a Swatch set to .beat time. I'm not even lying.
posted by w0mbat at 5:56 PM on January 13 [18 favorites]


In 1999, I knew two things for sure: Swatch Time would never catch on, and MP3s would never replace the good old CD.
posted by popcassady at 6:07 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


His thoughts were red thoughts: "Because Cindy Lauper."

GAAAAHHHH!!!! CYNDI Lauper.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:20 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


GAAAAHHHH!!!! CYNDI Lauper.

Mea culpa.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:29 PM on January 13


PHP's time functions include support for Swatch time

Doing what? Conversion to Hammer Time?
posted by thelonius at 7:40 PM on January 13 [8 favorites]


Dean Kamen broke through a dozen walls with the Segway. Mostly walls of affordability. The announcement of the Segway was a signal to the market that it was time to take exclusive technologies mainstream. You can't keep selling mems gyros, accelerometers, lithium batteries and high performance electric motors at high prices if you want to sell millions of them. /

Autonomous drone dropping off your Amazon order happens ten years sooner thanks to Dean Kamen.

+1 to pre-millennial swagger/insanity. Swatchtime forever.
posted @160 (da future)
posted by vicx at 7:50 PM on January 13 [8 favorites]


All I remember about swatches is that it was somehow fashionable in elementary school to wear like 4-5 of them at once on the same arm.

I've never heard of .beat time, but Swatch (and Benetton) really touch some deep pleasure centers for me, even today, when I think about them.

There was something really exciting about brands like Swatch and Benetton -- a certain "openness" -- a level of just futuristic delight, and cleanness, and whimsy --- that thrilled me, and still does.

No other advertising really gives me the jolt that certain Benetton ads did, its embrace of multiculturalism in a way that was kind of uncommon, and there was something so cool, so fresh in its spareness, about the design of their stores, a quality that Swatch shared as well, in its really clean, silly, almost disposable designs.

I don't know if this is just nostalgia ... maybe this has something to do with the time in my youth when this stuff was coming out ... but it really feels to me like those brands were doing something really culturally important, they seemed both of the 80's, but also to be weird little harbingers of the future (and actually their products wouldn't seem out of place today).

There was a weirdness in the 80's design choices that I find really interesting and pleasant. A few months ago I was browsing a book of Memphis design and felt that little "jolt" of delight that the era gives me. I was thinking the other day about the 80's flick Jumpin' Jack Flash in which the main character played by Whoopie Goldberg had a wardrobe of different colored Reebok hi-tops. That's the only thing I remember about that movie, really. All of that candy-colored 80's stuff just gives me a little rush.

I have been meaning to get a Swatch watch.
posted by jayder at 8:23 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Damn this post. I remember wanting a .beat time watch back in 1999 or so just because it was so ridiculous and futile, and I've had hankering to get a swatch for a while now because why the hell not. This post reminded me of all that and I just ended up buying a .beat from squiggly.com.
posted by fimbulvetr at 9:15 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Shame there was so much branding. I could easily jump on board with UTC millidays, but even a hard-core calendar-reform nut like me can't say "Biel Mean Time beats" without snickering. I'm pretty sure 1998-me would feel the same.

Leaping into decimal-time rabbit hole in search of a picture of Laplace's decimal watch lead to this guy, who's nice enough to explicitly allow the non-commercial use of the number 360 without a license. That lead me to wonder what kind of licensing Swatch envisioned for their system. So far, I've yet to come across any explicit mention of it, which seems surprising.

But, I now know that I want one of these non-existent analog beat watches.
posted by eotvos at 9:58 PM on January 13


All I remember about swatches is that it was somehow fashionable in elementary school to wear like 4-5 of them at once on the same arm.

why though


For synchronizing.
posted by aaronetc at 10:06 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Jeff Gerstmann of Giant Bomb is a well known Swatch Time enthusiast. If I remember right, during live shows the GB chat page has the time in .beats as well.
posted by kmz at 10:11 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


RonButNotStupid: There was this guy on an IRC channel I used to hang out in who always seemed to jump on and annoyingly make exclusive use of, non-standardized things ranging from mIRC's support for colors, to Hotline Connect, to this.

"Internet Time doesn't have time zones. If I tell someone to meet me here at @750 they don't have to worry about doing any conversions!"

'So why not just use GMT?'

"But it's Internet Time!"


What IRC server/channel? There's a possibility that that was me.

I was seriously obsessed with these sorts of things when I was a kid. When I first heard about Internet Time I made a very conscious decision to learn it, but it ended up being too hard. People on the DALnet anime channels I regularly hung out in told me it'd probably never happen. I went back to making my own non-standardized, geeky away messages ;__;
posted by gucci mane at 11:58 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


I am still waiting for beat time to catch on.
posted by bongo_x at 12:30 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I'm sort-of proud to say I have one of these. What I remember about it is that if you pressed the buttons right you saw a little animated film of a dog peeing on a lamppost.

Also I knew a girl once who wore 2-3 Swatches (it was the 80s). Whenever asked about them she would say "This one shows the time in Boston; this one shows the time in New York; and this one shows the time in Albany."
posted by chavenet at 1:45 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I thought "internet time" was the relativity of time when I lose myself down the deep well of the internet, and oh is it 1am already? I could have sworn I opened the browser only a half an hour ago.
posted by whatzit at 3:12 AM on January 14


There was a weirdness in the 80's design choices that I find really interesting and pleasant. A few months ago I was browsing a book of Memphis design and felt that little "jolt" of delight that the era gives me.

I totally get that. It reminds me of some of the design concepts for Apple computers that frogdesign did, which would occasionally be published in magazines like Macworld, and how excited I'd get before I realized that they'd never actually see the light of day.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:02 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Oh my, squiggly.com is amazing. Thanks, fimbulvetr. I think. (My wallet does not thank you, but that's its problem).
posted by sixohsix at 6:56 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I love swatch internet time. Hubristic, popularly derided, and yet somehow still ticking: it's the Second Life of timekeeping. The satellite fiasco is just waiting to be made into an indie film.

We still keep .beats alive at our hackerspace.

my fiance just suggested we put .beats on our wedding invitations, but I think we actually want people to show up
posted by phooky at 8:31 AM on January 14


philip-random: "In January of 2001, word began to leak that Dean Kamen was working on something amazing that would change the world.... Eventually, of course, IT was revealed as the Segway."

Does anyone really remember a time before The Segway?
posted by IAmBroom at 11:24 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


vicx: "Autonomous drone dropping off your Amazon order happens ten years sooner thanks to Dean Kamen. "

So, it might happen in 2090 instead of 2100?
posted by IAmBroom at 11:26 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


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