Australian time zone abbreviations

Stuart Bishop stuart at
Fri Jun 2 04:08:36 UTC 2006

Paul Eggert wrote:

>> Should the current official time zone abbreviations be used rather
>> than the popular ones?


> Would any other Australians care to chime in on this?  Is there a
> sense that the American-style time zone terminology has taken over
> from the British in the last five years?

Even if people commonly say 'Summer Time' or 'Standard Time' (which is
rather silly statement given that people rarely talk about time zones at
all), the abbreviations being the same is ludicrous because they are lossy
and cannot be used as replacements for the full spoken version. It is
necessary for acronyms to be unique in the contexts they are commonly used.
If the EST/EST acronyms still win out on web popularity, I think this is
purely a result of the pervasiveness of this time zone database.

While less important than getting unique abbreviations, disambiguating the
Australian time zones from the US ones would also be a win for the
Australian users of the time zone database. To the vast majority of the
world, EST is a US time zone and that will not change even if all several
million eastern seaboard Australians jumped up and down and yelled
otherwise. And we are the ones who pay the price in confusion, ambiguous
data and software that only works for us when we set our systems to UTC.
Bleating about correctness and trying to hold back the tide when the sea has
already reached our neck is a disservice to the Australian users of the time
zone database.

>> Perhaps, the older tz abbreviations without the "A" for Australia
>> could be maintained for dates in the past similar to using PWT
>> (Pacific Wartime) for Pacific Time?
> The PWT/PDT transition is easy, since it's just the end of the war.
> But as far as I know switching from EST to AEST would be tricky, since
> there's no specific point at which the switchover could be said to
> have occurred.  Unless there's some official time stamp somewhere
> (some law or regulation establishing the abbreviations, perhaps?).

A case could be made for backdating it to when Microsoft Windows started
using Australia Eastern Standard Time and Australia Eastern Daylight Time -
I suspect 1998. The major time zone databases (Microsoft's and this one)
create the standards when there are no government decrees to say otherwise
(and when they disagree with the standards, people will believe what their
computer tells them anyway.)

Stuart Bishop <stuart at>

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