Revisiting Australian time zone abbreviations

Stuart Bishop stuart at
Wed Jun 16 02:35:29 UTC 2010

On Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 1:29 AM, Paul Eggert <eggert at> wrote:

> The tz database's philosophy has generally tried to record what people
> typically do with their clocks and their abbreviations.  If one government
> agency says that it's AEST/AEDT, that's a good piece of evidence; but if
> other agencies disagree, that's evidence that there's not a solid consensus
> within the government what the abbreviations are or should be.

I do wish the Olson database started using the unambiguous
abbreviations though - there is no consensus so the database
maintainers have to make a best guess.

There might also be a catch-22 here, with people underestimating the
importance of this database. The Olson database has been in existence
for a long, long time and I tend to feel that a major contributing
factor for timezone abbreviation confusion in Australia is because all
the Unix based systems give people confusing timezone abbreviations.
It won't be long now until the majority of people using the database
where not born when someone first selected EST/EST for Australian
Eastern Standard Time/Australian Eastern Summer Time.

Like it or not, the Olson database is the authoritative source for
Australian timezone abbreviations and in a leadership position until
enough politicians in the right positions make some decisions. I don't
expect it to happen soon, as it hasn't happened in the last 25 years
people have been asking.

What are the reasons for *not* changing? I seem to recall some vague
arguments about mythical legacy systems that will break if the
abbreviations change. I haven't heard other arguments for keeping the
status quo in a long, long time. Do we have to wait until 2038 when
the mythical legacy systems explode anyway? Maybe not - I suspect they
never survived Y2K...

Stuart Bishop <stuart at>

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