Metric time - France
takes the lead
Paris April 1st.
2010 - AFC
will officially become the first country in the world in modern time to
adopt metric time, according to documents leaked late last night to a
French television station, and confirmed by a
high-ranking official in Paris. The change to metric time will
complete the process of metrication launched over two centuries ago
following the French Revolution. Subject to official
confirmation, M-Day is scheduled for April 2011, leaving French
businesses, transport operators and the general public just a year to
prepare for the event.
Critics have reacted swiftly to news
of the plan, claiming that the switchover to metric time will cause
panic and confusion on a par with the Millennium bug, and should not be
introduced in a hurry; but in Paris a senior member of the official
National Time Metrication Coordinating and Organising Committee,
speaking under cover of anonymity, confirmed that the change to metric
time has now been approved at the highest level.
Under the plans first put
forward in 1791 by Jean-Baptiste Touta-Leurre, the Corsican watchmaker
who rose to prominence in Parisian scientific circles in revolutionary
France, days in France will be subdivided as from next year into ten
metric hours, and each hour divided into one hundred metric minutes.
However plans to name these units Meurs and Centimeurs have been
shelved in spite of the possibility of confusion following the
changeover, as surveys carried out by Paris-based Ipsos
suggest that changing the names of the units as well as the units
themselves would lead to greater confusion.
A memorandum on preparing for the
changeover will be circulated in the coming month to all local
authorities and the directors of all public institutions in France. It
requires clockfaces on all public buildings, and timepieces
in all public services to be prepared for the changeover by February
1st next year at the latest. Clock faces on historic monuments are
however exempt from the changeover, and will continue to show 24-hour
time as part of France's national heritage.
Commenting on the changeover, which
for over a year has been the subject of secret negotiations between
leading French industry chiefs and the directors of major public
services, a senior executive of the French rail service SNCF said: "We
are quite confident that we will be fully prepared for this historic
change in which France will lead the world. This is a very
positive step forward, and as far as the railways are concerned, people
will feel that the trains are faster, even if this is not the
case. For example, from April 1st next year, the TGV (high speed train)
service between Paris and Lyons will take under an hour, compared to
two hours with the present system."
But speaking on a late-night French TV
show, a spokesman for Air France, who had no prior knowledge
of the project, expressed considerable alarm. "I do not think that this
is a very sensible plan. Ooh la la. But imagine the confusion we will
have in the skies over France. Unless everyone adopts this new metric
time, we will have planes leaving from Frankfurt at 8 o'clock
in the morning, and reaching Paris at 4 o'clock in the morning the same
day. It will be crazy! No no no, I cannot believe that France
will do this alone. "
Contacted by phone by a journalist for
the main French television channel, European Commission
Weights and Measures Directorate spokesman Hengst
Driyfødder suggested that Brussels may block moves
by France to take a unilateral decision of this nature. " I don't think
that France will be able to take such an important decision without EU
approval, " he observed. "It might be better to postpone the changeover
for a year or two, so that all countries in the European Union can move
over to metric time together. For instance, on April 1st 2014."
you're still incredulous about this, please note the date at the top of
the article. But the idea is not as strange as it might seem,
and France did actually use metric time, or decimal time, for two years
in the Revolutionary period, from 1793 to 1795; the day was divided in
to ten hours, and each hour into 100 minutes. The system was scrapped
in 1795 when France introduced the Republican calendar, which
was used until 1806. This calendar divided the year into twelve months
(years started with the Autumnal equinox), and each month was divided
into three decades. The months had names derived from the farming
calendar or from the weather, and included Vendémiaire,
Brumaire, Floreal and Thermidor.
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