Obscure Date and Time Formats

Date and time can be represented in many ways.

Here are some of the peculiar ones:

Roman Numerals

The Romans had a numbering system where letters from the Latin alphabet signified a value. Roman numerals are still used around the clock and many times for expressing a year something is build, written or made.

This year being 2012 in Arabic numerals is MMXII in Roman numerals. Next year is MMXIII and the year after is of course MMXIIII. No wait, it is MMXIV.

The 12-Hour Clock

A day consists of 24 hours. So naturally 5 hours into the day will be 5:00 and 17 hours into the day will be 17:00. But no. Several countries around the world still stick to the 12-hour clock writing 5:00 AM and 5:00 PM. And in most countries verbal use of the 12-hour clock is common.

The American Date Format

A date consists of three elements: Day, Month and Year.

So to most of the world yesterday the 1st June 2012 will be: 01/06/2012

If you insist using an ISO standard, you’ll do it backward: 2012-06-01

However, if you are from the United States, you’ll do it awkward: 06/01/2012

Even if you are a US data quality tool vendor selling to the whole world, you will still do it awkward:

Blog post published 1st June 2012. Flip that date! – as it will be 6th January to the rest of the world.

Best practice will be writing June 1st 2012 or in other way avoiding ambiguity.

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4 thoughts on “Obscure Date and Time Formats

  1. Prashant C 2nd June 2012 / 18:00

    Good post Henrik. I agree.. There are so many formats being used all around the world, Its so confusing and becomes difficult sometimes to get our facts right. Plenty of times I had to throw away my cheques when I first came here in united states because I kept writing DD/MM/YYYY format. Like I use to end up giving a 6 month post dated payment to my apartment owner. Ha..

    Coming to dealing with data formats during MDM, We recently had some sql source data in an unusual format for a date that
    reads – 20120829 (YYYYMMDD – how cool is that!?). Thank God for the advancement in ETL tools 🙂

  2. dirtydatadonkeys 2nd June 2012 / 21:57

    That 20120829 format and 2012_08_29 allows for easy sequence sorting of versions of documents when this is the first unique sequence in the name of the documents.

    Regarding the date issue on checks, I had a really hard time with that, too. I had trouble moving to the UK for 4 months and then just got it right and had to unlearn it when I went back to the States.

    Regarding the 24 hour clock, it is often referenced as “military time” in the US if we use the 1300, 1400, 1500, etc. In addition, I have encountered many people who can’t decipher the 24 hour clock.

    Now, for a really different date format:
    On June 2, 2012 at 16:53 in New York City, the Stardate is: -311419.95 (if you are a Star Trek fan!). Calculate your own Stardate here: http://www.stevepugh.net/fleet/stardate.html

  3. Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 4th June 2012 / 17:35

    Thanks Prash, Bryan and Gary. Maybe stardate will be the new standard 🙂

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