Time zones around the world. Photograph: Frank Baron
Increasing globalisation in the Victorian era meant a need to standardise time zones, as businesses began to operate across wider areas and world travel became easier with the advent of the railway. The Meridian Conference in 1884, attended by representatives from various countries, led to the creation of the 24 time zones we use today.
The zones are based on 24 longitudinal meridian lines that run from the north to south poles. The prime meridian, determined by the 1884 conference, runs through Greenwich, in the UK, giving us Greenwich Mean Time. Other time zones are counted to the east and west of this line, either plus or minus hours from GMT.
Each country sets its own time zone within this framework, so some zones extend beyond the meridian for convenience, while others, like India, take on half hours. Kiribati even extended its time zone 600 miles east in 1995, to include Caroline Island in the same zone (and, as it straddled the Date Line opposite the GMT meridian, the same date) as the country’s other islands.
The development of the world wide web in the 1990s led to calls for a standardised internet time, as people in cyberspace were no longer bound by geography. Swatch even invented a concept called beat time that split each day into 1,000 beats on a decimal system, eradicating time zones entirely.
For those of you who don’t operate on Internet Time, this spreadsheet shows the time zone in 195 countries, extracted from our World Factfiles series.
• DATA: time zones around the world
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