Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Reading the Time

In recent months, Vanessa has taken an interest in reading the time. She’s getting quite good at it. She’s reading from digital clocks or digital watches. No, not those analog clock faces we’ve had to read from when we were young. So it isn’t too difficult for her after all, but nevertheless, it’s a good start. Then I wondered, when will Vanessa move on to read analog clock faces?

Or, more interestingly, would she even have to learn about analog clock faces? As it is right now, digital clocks are everywhere, and analog clocks are disappearing fast. Is it going to be important to know how to read analog clock faces at all?

It got me thinking a little bit. Vanessa is reading the time as just a series of numbers. Or, more accurately, two sets of numbers: the hour number, and the minute number. At some point, she’d figure out 60 minutes make an hour, and 24 hours make a day. But these are all just sequences of numbers. Like 10 centimetres make 1 metre. Or 12 inches make 1 feet.

What I’m trying to drive at is that I don’t quite see time in this way. I have a visual model of time: the clock face. When I read time, even from a digital readout, I map it onto that analog clock face.

I imagine if your mind has only learnt digital clocks, when you do time arithmetic, you do simple numerical arithmetic. For example, what is 6 hours after 2pm? You probably just add 6 to 2 and arrive at 8pm as the answer. But I don’t. I see the analog clock face. 6 hours after 2pm is to point the hour hand in the direct opposite direction, giving me 8pm.

This visual model works for all sorts of time arithmetic for me. For example, to convert from Singapore time to New York time, to calculate time schedules, and all other sorts of time arithmetic.

I don’t think it is easier to calculate time in the pure digital sense, i.e., without what I refer to as the visual model of the clock face. It isn’t for me, anyway. I can’t say if this is really the better method, or simply that I’m too familiar with it.

Does being good at time arithmetic have anything to do with better time management? I often run into people who have litte or no concept of time management. I’m not talking about big-picture high level things like project planning over many months, but simple day-to-day things. Even very simple mechanical things like… getting to an appointment on time. (Maybe the real problem is that they just cannot be bothered.)

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