Are we springing into a Y2K-class nightmare?

Permanent daylight savings could be the glitch of the (new) century

The US Senate has passed legislation aimed at making Daylight Saving Time permanent, leaving the country in the "spring forward" state from 2023.

The practice of changing the clocks twice a year in the US dates back to the agrarian heyday of the early 1900s and has endured, despite regular grumbling. Clocks go forward an hour at the start of the year ("Spring forward") and go back towards the end ("Fall back"),a process that creates its own biannual chaos.

Assuming the permanent daylight savings bill gets through the House of Representatives along with a nod from President Joe Biden, the change could happen from the end of 2023.

While there are arguments for and against the change (there might be fewer car crashes, but equally children might have to spend longer traipsing to school in the dark, and so on), the IT world is pondering the possibility of a mini-restart of the Y2K gravy train that paid for so many consultants' Ferraris as the 1990s drew to a close.

Certainly, time zones have presented a headache for engineers over the years (although perhaps not so many as those caused by the insistence of some in the US on the MM/DD/YYYY date format) and while lawmakers have tinkered with the system since its first introduction, society today is considerably more digital.

Changing how time is observed could have implications for all manner of services, from payroll and financial through to broadcasting and transport.

However, the connected nature of many services should, if programmed correctly, mean that a straightforward update will do the trick. For many, it should be a simple case of grabbing the IANA tz database when updated and reconfiguring against it. There will, however, be outliers and complexities but hey – there's more than a year to go. What could go wrong?

There's no word on whether other countries will follow suit. The UK, for example, insists on using British Summer Time from the end of March through to the last Sunday of October and despite regular debates around ditching the practice continues to cling to it.

Sadly, while there seems a good chance that the US will press ahead with reforms to its timekeeping, there is no sign of a move to a date format that's a little more computer-friendly (ISO 8601, anyone?) And as for inches versus centimeters... well – we'll always have giraffes. ®

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