This morning at church a woman said she was running late because of a software issue. Her alarm clock was manufactured before the US changed the end date of daylight saving time. Her clock “fell back” an hour because daylight saving time would have ended today had the law not changed.
Here are a few thoughts about what went wrong and how it might have been prevented.
- Laws have unforeseen consequences. When the change was being debated, I doubt many asked about the impact on alarm clocks and other devices with embedded software.
- The clock tried to be helpful by automating the time change. It would have been better had it done nothing. Moderately smart software is often worse than no software.
- Should the clock have been designed to check for software updates? What would it have done to the cost to turn a simple clock into a computer with a network connection?
- The clock could depend on a radio signal for time. Some do, and they’re very accurate. But they’re also more expensive.
- Should we get rid of daylight saving time? It made more sense when nearly everyone had a 9:00 to 5:00 work schedule. But now that so different people work shifts or have flexible schedules, it doesn’t seem to add as much value.