Does anybody really know what time it is? (#atozchallenge)

We’re going to talk about time, so let’s play some apropriate music. You might want to wait until you have eleven minutes to listen. It’s worth the time.

On January 1, 1993, I thought it might be fun to start listening to shortwave radio. I had a few extra dollars, and Radio Shack was open, so I bought myself a world radio and started listening to it. It had a function in it that would scan all of the frequencies, from 2 MHz all the way up to 32 MHz, for any active stations, so I started it up, set the time, and spent a couple of hours searching for something to listen to. One of the first stations I found was sending clicks every second, followed by an announcer saying, “At the tone, 22 hours, 17 minutes, Coordinated Universal Time,” then a beep and the clicks would start all over again.

Huh? Coordinated Universal Time? What’s that? Nowadays, I would go to the Internet and Google it, but in 1993, I didn’t even have a computer, let alone a search engine or any of that good stuff. So, I did what any good technical person would do: I read through the booklet that came with the radio. It told me that Coordinated Universal Time was also known as world time or Greenwich Mean Time, and that it was abbreviated UTC.

My fifth-grade geography came back to me. The Prime Meridian passed through Greenwich, England, dividing the Western Hemisphere from the Eastern Hemisphere.

(There are several places in Greenwich that a person can stand in both hemispheres at the same time. Picture from Wikipedia.)

Reading further, I learned that, since I’m located in the Eastern time zone, my local time is five hours less than UTC (four hours less during Daylight Saving Time). It’s 10:15 PM on Monday, April 23 as I type this; UTC would be 0215 on Tuesday, April 24. Easy, huh?

Now comes the fun part…

The world is divided into 24 time zones. The time zone that contains the Prime Meridian is called Zulu. Moving east from the Zulu time zone, the time zones are Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Kilo (they skip Juliet), Lima, and Mike. Moving west, the zones are November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-ray, and Yankee.

I know what you’re saying: “Hey, that’s 25 time zones!” Mike and Yankee share the time zone around the International Date Line. Mike is left (west) of the line, and Yankee is to the right (east).

Now, where have we seen those names before?

6 thoughts on “Does anybody really know what time it is? (#atozchallenge)

  1. I’ve heard these names before in another context. My father was a private pilot, and he’d radio in to the tower giving his plane’s registration number, which was November 4945 Zulu.


    1. Right. The military, aviation, shortwave, all of them use the NATO spelling alphabet. I thought that it would be a good way to tie all of the posts together this month. Thanks for stopping by!


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