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The Hexclock

The clock is the perfect place to start changing the decimal paradigm, because it is something we all look at several times a day, and it is one of the most illogical devices in want of fixing.

The Hexclock arranges time in a more consistent and logical manner than our present clock. Instead of dividing the day into arbitrary divisions (twenty-four hours in a day, sixty minutes in an hour, etc.), the Hexclock represents time of day as a single hexadecimal number. A Hexclock displaying three digits gives even better resolution than a standard clock, which displays a digit (or two) for the hour and two for the minutes. If you watch the clocks above, you will see that the Hexclock increments about three times as often as the standard clock.

Analog Hexclock

Hex time is expressed as a hexadecimal fraction (from 0 to 1) showing how much of the day has passed. When used for measurements or scientific calculations, hex time can be represented with as many digits as desired for the sake of precision (e.g. noon could be expressed as .800000). When representing hex time in its standard notation, however, contemporary readers may find it convenient to think of time in terms of hours, minutes, and seconds. For the sake of accessibility, the leftmost digit of hex time is called the hexhours, the next two digits are referred to as hexminutes, and the fourth digit designates hexseconds.

It is customary to separate hexhours, hexminutes, and hexseconds using an underscore (e.g. noon would be written as 8_00). This idea was first implemented by Pete Boardman, who realized that using a colon would cause too much confusion with conventional time notation. Unlike conventional time, to convert between hexhours, hexminutes, and hexseconds, instead of having to multiply or divide by some arbitrary conversion factor, all you have to do is shift the digits. For example, to convert hexseconds into hexminutes, just shift the number one digit to the right (3C.216 hexseconds equals 3.C216 hexminutes). It is even possible to convert days into hexhours and such by shifting the point (7.816 days equals 7816 hexhours).

Furthermore, the essentially pointless and often confusing A.M. and P.M. suffixes have been eliminated. Anyone who has accidentally set his or her alarm clock for seven P.M. instead of seven A.M. can appreciate this.

How do I convert between standard time and hex time?

The scientific definition of a second is 9,192,631,77010 vibrations of an atom of Cesium-133. In hex time, we define one day as 2,D25,C32,D2E,70016 (794,243,384,928,00010) vibrations of an atom of Cesium-133. You can use the following approximate conversion factors:

  • 1 hexsecond = 1.3110 (1.5216) seconds
  • 1 second = 0.75910 (0.C2316) hexseconds
  • 1 hexminute = 0.35210 (0.5A016) minutes
  • 1 minute = 2.8410 (2.D816) hexminutes
  • 1 hexhour = 1.510 (1.816) hours
  • 1 hour = 0.66710 (0.AAB16) hexhours

Who invented the Hexclock?

The concept of hexadecimal time is likely not new. Certainly, powers of two have been used in measurement systems for centuries (e.g. 16 ounces in a pound, 4 quarts in a gallon). In the 1850s, Swedish-American inventor John W. Nystrom proposed a hexadecimal system of weights and measures that included a hexadecimal clock. Sadly, his idea never caught on.

As of the year 7CD (or 1997, depending on your weltanschauung), no hexadecimal time standard had been adopted. Finding none on the World Wide Web, Mark V. Rogers, then an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science undergraduate, proposed his own system. He called it the Hexclock and first implemented it for distribution on the web both in JavaScript and as a Java applet.

While the system proposed by Rogers duplicates the concept of Nystrom's idea, it was derived wholly independently. The modern standard digits that the Hexclock uses (0-9 and A-F) were not yet in use during Nystrom's day. Furthermore, Nystrom's proposed naming convention never gained currency, and Rogers rejected it. The use of an underscore ( _ ) as a separator, suggested by Pete Boardman, further distinguishes the Hexclock. Also, Rogers presumably coined the terms hexhour, hexminute, and hexsecond.

Rogers has built multiple prototypes of an electronic Hexclock for the home or office. Although a production model is not yet for sale, rumors suggest that such a unit may become available in 2007.

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