12 November 2010

Getting the date and time right: YY/MM/DD vs. DD/MM/YY

A recent comment made by one of my readers (yes, you know who you are, since you're the only reader :)) has spurred me on to writing this reply. It's simply to put the world in the know, because I fear South Africa will forever be trapped in the cycle of inefficiency and stupidity until we see the logic in the way the date should be organised:

First of all, I don't change the time standard as my esteemed reader alleges. I USE THE LOGICAL time standard. Have you ever wondered why the USA is leaps ahead of RSA in terms of efficiency and development? Here's why:

USA uses the date format of YY/MM/DD vs. the RSA standard format of DD/MM/YY.
If we had a phone bill received on the 1st of every month, then they would be sorted by date as follows:

2010/01/01 (January)
2010/02/01 (February)
2010/03/01 (March)
and so on

01/01/2010 (January)
01/02/2010 (February)
01/03/2010 (March)
and so on

If we want to file all of our telephone bills into folders, if they all arrived on the 1st of the month, then in the USA they'd be filed in a cabinet labeled 2010 in a folder labeled "January", "February", "March" and so on. In RSA they'd be filed in a cabinet labeled "Day 1" in a folder labeled "January". In the USA you'd need one cabinet per year, and in RSA you'd need one cabinet per day (i.e. 31 cabinets per year).

If we wanted to filter out the a phone bill from November 2010, if it was sorted by RSA format we'd need to dig into the file of "1st's" and sift through piles of notes from January through to December 2000 through to 2010 before we found the one we wanted. In other words, to find November 2010's phone bill, you'd dig into a folder of about 120 notes because they've been filed by the Day and then the Month and then only the Year.

The US standard of YY/MM/DD is much more logical because to find November 2010, you start in the 2010 (YY) folder, then the 11 (MM) folder, and then hey presto, there's only one phone bill in that folder.

I am not for the illogical pounds and ounces and inches stuff, but the date sorting makes sense, and that's how I've always used it.

To verify my explanation, go ahead and see for yourself: click on the DATE tab in your explorer and see how it sorts your files - if it's DD/MM/YY does it help you to find your date-organised files as efficiently as if you sorted by YY/MM/DD?


Zane said...

Ahem, the US does not store their dates as YY/MM/DD, but as MM/DD/YY.


I'm sure if you told windows that you were from the US, it would give you the date in MM/DD/YY.

Hokemon said...

Yeah, what Zane said. See "xcopy /d" for example.

I find this even more retarded than the d/m/y format, as you're mixing the order of significance.

I do however agree that y/m/d is ideal for computing/sorting. In fact it's an ISO standard. I'm not going to look up the number though.

pumpkinslayer said...

If you like yyyy/mm/dd then you should move to the East where this is standard in many places.

In fact almost everything in Taiwan is that way, including postal addresses. The most general thing comes first and the most specific last.

Also, having d/m/y and m/d/y inevitably leads to me cycling through the first field and if it goes more than 12 then I know what it is.