Ink Sauce Contents

An Experiment in Octal Time

(requires JavaScript)

This clock uses an octal (base-8) system (digits 0–7). The day is divided into three eight-hour cycles, replacing the two twelve-hour cycles conventionally called a.m. and p.m. (from the Latin phrases ante merīdiem “before noon” and post merīdiem “after noon” respectively). Each hour is divided into 64 equal minutes, and each minute into 64 equal seconds, for a total of 5 octal digits. The rightmost digit therefore updates slightly faster than SI seconds.

A likely first impulse, and the easiest scheme to put together in JavaScript, would be to start the first eight-hour cycle at midnight; but note that the Latin phrases abbreviated a.m. and p.m. have noon, not midnight, as their point of reference. Everyday human affairs more naturally fit an arrangement in which an afternoon cycle (S, for Latin sērō “late, at a late time”) begins at noon, then is followed by a nighttime cycle (N, for nocte “at night”) and then a morning one (M, for māne “in the morning”). In this system, midnight comes at “4:00” at night, appropriately right in the middle of the “night” period. A 9-to-5 workday becomes a “5-to-5” one.

(requires JavaScript)

For the hours digit, the single symbol for “eight” is retained for convenience. If the clock is imagined as being used in a future scenario in which the octal number system has been generally adopted, the “8” character could come to be associated with time and with the measurement of time. It might be perceived as being related to the infinity symbol (∞).

The JavaScript for the digital readout has been heavily modified from parts of Lyle Zapato’s “Clocks” page. Any mistakes in the code are mine, not his.