Origin of Synchronisation (Part 2)

By on


Most towns and cities would have a main clock, such as Big Ben in London, and for those living near-by, it was fairly easy to look out the window and adjust the office or factory clock to ensure synchronicity; however, for those not in view of these tower clocks, other systems were used.

Commonly, somebody with a pocket watch would set the time by the tower clock in the morning and then go around businesses and for a small fee, let people know exactly what the time was, thus enabling them to adjust the office or factory clock to suit.

When, however, the railways began, and timetables became important it was clear a more accurate method of time keeping was needed, and it was then that the first official time-scale was developed.

As clocks were still mechanical, and therefore inaccurate and prone to drift, society again turned to that more accurate chronometer, the sun.

It was decided that when the sun was directly above a certain location, that would signal noon on this new time-scale. The location: Greenwich, in London, and the time-scale, originally called railway time, eventually became Greenwich Meantime (GMT), a time-scale that was used until the 1970’s.

Now of course, with atomic clocks, time is based on an international time-scale UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) although its origins are still based on GMT and often UTC is still referred to as GMT.

Now with the advent of international trade and global computer networks, UTC is used as the basis of nearly all international time. Computer networks deploy NTP servers to ensure that the time on their networks are accurate, often to a thousandth of a second to UTC, which means all around the world computers are ticking with the same accurate time – whether it is in London, Paris, or New York, UTC is used to ensure that computers everywhere can accurately communicate with each other, preventing the errors that poor time synchronisation can cause.


This post was written by:

Richard N Williams is a technical author and a specialist in the NTP Server and Time Synchronisation industry. Richard N Williams on Google+