When Does The Time Change? Why We Turn The Clocks Back, And Why America's Late In The Game
America is a little late in the game on this one: aside from Libya, the entire world adjusted their clocks last weekend. Even Israel joined in this year, but, ever the rebel, America held out until 2 a.m. Sunday to adjust the time. At least the U.S. is consistent: Libya's government announced at the eleventh hour last Friday that they wouldn't be changing their clocks back at 2 a.m. with everybody else, and they'd continue enjoying summer, thanks. This whole casually-throwing-time-around thing can be super-confusing, even in the age of automatically adjusting timekeepers — so why even do it? We can blame Ben Franklin, an English equestrian, and Franz Ferdinand (the archduke, not the band).
Though the idea of changing time to reflect daylight goes way back to agriculturally inclined ancient societies, the modern world didn't come around until Ben Franklin decided he didn't like wasting candles. In 1784, the ever-frugal Franklin wrote an essay about how getting up earlier to take advantage of daylight would save candle costs from staying up that extra hour the night before — and you know, penny saved is a penny earned. And early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. And everyone else grumpy, because his idea didn't get too far.
So the world was still sticking with the same clock when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated and World War I happened. Germany thought that a clever way to save fuel costs (because hey, it's wartime) would be to switch to Daylight Savings Time.
Never one to be shown up, Britain decided to finally listen to this guy named William Willett, who'd been campaigned for literally the exact same idea since 1907, after he went on a horseback ride and was aghast to see curtains still drawn when the sun was up. What a waste of daylight! he thought, and promptly wrote a pamphlet titled pretty much the same thing. But it wasn't until the Germans changed time that the British Parliament finally listened to him and adopted British Summer Time a few weeks after the Germans.
The U.S. hopped on board two years later, but only because all the other Allies were doing it. After the war, most countries switched back to keeping the clocks the same — until the next World War came around, and then countries were all about rationing again. It was a great period of time-change exploration for the Allies — the U.S. was put on year-round DST, while the Brits had a Double Summer Time that put their clocks two hours ahead during the summer.
This time it stuck — but in a pretty horrible way. From 1945-1966, states and even local areas in the U.S. could decide whether they wanted DST or not, so everyone was super-confused (I mean, train schedules? Out-of-town dates? Nightmare). Finally, Congress got their act together and whipped out the Uniform Time Act of 1966 to make things consistent. Adjustments have been made since then, but that was pretty much it.
While the U.S. staunchly denies its FOMO, those in the Middle East, Europe, the U.K. and Mexico were really grateful for the extra hour of sleep they got this weekend, after clocks were pushed back at 2 a.m. local times last Sunday morning (or for the extra hour of clubbing they got to do). But in Brazil, Chile, Australia and New Zealand — countries in the Southern Hemisphere, clocks jumped forward an hour to begin Daylight Savings Time.
Today, experts are pretty divided about the benefits of the time changes — the U.K., for example, stuck with British Summer Time year-round between 1968 and 1971, but it was about as successful as the U.S. attempt at the metric system (LOL).
In other timely news, Spain's thinking about switching their time zone, because although it's really far west in Europe, they're still working off the same time zone the rest of continental Europe goes on. If it switched back an hour, aka to what the Brits do, experts say it would increase Spanish productivity and let them get more sleep. Seriously, guys: the siesta wasn't enough?