Canadian Inventions — ‘Standard Time’

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Dumas: Canadian

“Au gré des saisons”; ‘Fixer le temps‘ (2006)


Europe Is Small And Crowded…

…so having a system of timekeeping where, if it was 6pm in Paris it was five minutes sooner in London, kind of made sense. Or at least it didn’t cause enough fuckups to be considered something which needed fixing. At least if you were European.

But European-style timekeeping, where everyone’s clock was set by the height of the sun at noon, was useless in a country like Canada, which is three times the size of Europe with a tenth the population. It was in 1878 when Sir Sandford Fleming, a Canadian engineer who was surveying the first Trans-Canada Railway, realised just how fucked “Euro-Style Local Time” would be when designing an engineering project that was 3200 miles long and twelve feet wide — picture a train travelling West to East and having to reset your watch every fifteen minutes for twelve days because every train station had a different Time Zone.

So Fleming had the idea to break the world into 24 one hour segments. And, of course, the world adopted the idea straight away and in no way was there any hysteria at the possibility of change. The End. Oh… wait, there were a lot of people who considered his idea to be “against God’s will”. There were some who even condemned Fleming as an “Internationalist” (re: commie) for even thinking aboot bringing the world together under a single measurement of time.

Most of these people were European and probably pictured North America as aboot the size of Denmark. But in 1884, at the International Prime Meridian Conference in Washington DC, the system of International Standard Time Zones was adopted and put into place a year later. So Fleming made it possible for FedEx and UPS to actually schedule deliveries without suffering brain aneurysms, because Globalization doesn’t happen without standard measurements and time zones.

In 1851 Fleming also designed Canada’s first adhesive postage stamp, the “Three Penny Beaver” (featuring a beaver, and costing three cents). He also fought for the construction of a transoceanic system of communication cables that eventually connected the entire British Empire. Fleming was made a knight in 1897 by Queen Victoria, and he served as chancellor of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario for 35 years.


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About Gabriel

I’ve lived in more than fifty places. I've been paid to pick stones out of fields, take backstage photos of Britney Spears, and report on Internet privacy issues. My photos have been published in several newspapers, and a couple of magazines.
This entry was posted in America, Canada, Canadian Inventions, Canadian Politics, CSN:AFU Greatest Hits, globalization, Great Britain, Humor, Humour, Punk. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Canadian Inventions — ‘Standard Time’

  1. Queen Minx says:

    I don’t mind the time zones. I just wish I could get to wherever I wanted to get to, quicker, and without having to change planes, trains and automobiles in-between!!
    Sigh! ‘Beam me up Scotty’.

  2. feartheseeds says:

    Hey… Scotty — James Doohan — he was Canadian as well. He was in the Canadian Armed Forces and stormed the beach on D-Day… trust me, there are teams of Canadians who, right now, are creating new and exciting ways to get people from one place to another place. Then other Canadians, mostly ones living in Toronto, will take that excitement out of those creations, paint them beige and give them to American investors for promises that Americans will treat Torontonians less dismissively.

  3. puddlejumper says:

    I have to ask….

    I just have to…

    Did you have to “lick” the threepenny beaver?

    (or was it self adhesive and therefore not half as funny?)

  4. feartheseeds says:

    Yes, Canadians licked beaver for a lot of years… and, if given the opportunity we will gladly do it again. …until a few years ago, we were licking the backside of The Queen. Now we have self-adhesive stamps. Which makes sense.

  5. Queen Minx says:

    I really miss having my backside licked. Nobody asked me if was okay. If they had, I would have said …
    ‘No. It is not okay. Please continue to lick our backside!’

  6. absolut.folly says:

    Aboot the Zones.

    A great way to time travel (and give homage to Sanford Fleming) is to take the train from Toronto to Vancouver. They have announcements on the speaker “we just passed into an other time zone, the local time is now…” Four times (!) during the 70 something (lost count on the way) hour ride.

    And as an extra bonus, you get to see a little bit of Canada, the south side.

  7. feartheseeds says:

    The only time I’ve travelled out to the Left Coast was when I was a kid… we kinda lived out there for a little while. I remember feeding chipmunks in Banff and the smell of the ocean in Vancouver. I’ve always wanted to go back by train… it’s a 3.5 day continuous trip through some amazing parts of Southern Canada. Maybe next year.

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