We've decimalized everything else: why not the time of day? It would make calculations of time easier. My own idea was to divide the day into ten hours, each hour into a hundred minutes, each minute into a hundred seconds.
However, I see that the Swatch company has come up with its own idea along these lines. The Swatch proposal has several separate components, as follows:
- The day is divided into a thousand beats, each beat being equal to 1.44 old minutes (exactly the same as one new minute in my own proposal). There are no hours or seconds; presumably we can refer to centibeats, or 0.01 beats.
- There is no adjustment for time zone: Swatch time is universal and doesn't vary with location.
- Zero beats occurs at midnight in Biel, Switzerland — so it's equivalent to Central European Time.
You can now buy Swatch watches that will tell you the time in beats as well as in conventional units. Some Web sites also display the current time in beats.
I think the first part of the Swatch proposal is excellent: to use only one unit of time is simpler than my own proposal, and to call it a “beat” seems quite a good idea, distinguishing it neatly from the old units of time.
The other parts of the proposal are less good and may prevent it from catching on. Not many people really need a universal time; most people prefer the day to start at midnight in their own location. Those who do need a universal time are presumably already using Greenwich Mean Time (now referred to as UTC by people who can't pronounce Greenwich).
To try to impose Swiss time as a world standard seems a mistake to me. Objectively, there's no reason why not; but people are already accustomed to GMT/UTC and I don't think they'll respond well to a new zero point that's just as arbitrary as the existing one.