submitted 2 months ago by BackOnMyBS to c/nostupidquestions

The sun dial worked during daylight, but how did people agree on what time it was at night before clocks were invented?

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[-] AFKBRBChocolate 156 points 2 months ago

There were some timekeeping approaches, including candles marked with the hours based on burn rate (also used as alarm clocks by sticking metal things in them that would fall on a bell or metal dish below), but there also wasn't a lot of reason to know the time accurately at night. Hell, in the time before clocks, there wasn't much need to know the time accurately in the day. People used sunrise, noon, and sunset as the major markers.

[-] [email protected] 48 points 2 months ago

Even up to the advent of trains, time was very localized. Timezones didn't exist, and people would just come to a general consensus on what time it was, often via a clocktower or similar structure.

[-] [email protected] 24 points 2 months ago

I remember reading once that if you time traveled back to Europe anywhere beyond 200 years, the majority of people would not know what year it was. All they understood was summer winter summer winter, someone born two years ago, someone died five years ago, that's it.

The church kept track of Holy days but even that was an ongoing controversy with everyone.

You could go back to 1123 and there might be a hundred people that kept track of the year but even they wouldn't agree with one another.

[-] marx2k 8 points 2 months ago

So how do we know it's really 2024?

[-] [email protected] 8 points 2 months ago

By comparing historical accounts of known events with stable periods, like eclipses or comets.

[-] [email protected] 2 points 2 months ago

I thought we figured out it wasn't though? If we were counting time correctly it would be 2028-2030 right now.

[-] [email protected] 1 points 2 months ago

Faith and common belief ... it's the same system that basically works for many of the cultural ideas outside of actual science that we all use. Money, calendars, time, historic cultural units of measurements ... all based on belief, habit and repetition.

We don't know if it is actually 2024 ... we just have 8 billion people (maybe 7,999,999,998 if you and I don't agree) who all believe that it is 2024 that is all.

[-] marx2k 2 points 2 months ago

Huh... i man, I guess over time, timekeeping began to solidify. So when did we actually start keeping a common date? I know some religions or cultures think it's way off of 2024. But when did a strong common use of calendars come About?

[-] [email protected] 7 points 2 months ago

This simply isn't true. People kept track of the year, even if it wasn't the Julian calendar, stuff like "the third year of the reign of king George".

[-] [email protected] 19 points 2 months ago

Honestly, even in the world after the invention of clocks knowing the time down to the minute isn't very important for most people most of the time. Sure, it can be useful on occasion, but people put way too much emphasis on way too small of time units way too often.

[-] PilferJynx 3 points 2 months ago

The only thing is that it severely limits the options to meet somewhere when all you got is dawn, noon, and dusk.

[-] [email protected] 2 points 2 months ago

Sure, but pretending you're all going to meet at exactly 4:37 or whatever is just lie. Nobody is actually accurate down to the minute in their casual lives, and using units that are more precise than they are accurate is just lying about your accuracy. You can use modern clocks without pretending that single minutes matter. That's why some people still talk about things like quarter hours even when using digital clocks. That's a much more human kind of timescale.

[-] [email protected] 2 points 2 months ago

Matters for public transport tbh

[-] [email protected] 1 points 2 months ago* (last edited 2 months ago)

Matters for public transport tbh

Which didn't operate on that strict a time schedule (if at all) in the time period OP is asking about.

[-] [email protected] 1 points 2 months ago

Fair. I'd hate to show up to my bus 5 minutes early just to realise it left 10 minutes early, though

[-] [email protected] 1 points 2 months ago

Hey, if you live in a place where the public transport actually shows up when it's supposed to that's nice for you, I guess, but where I'm from pretending that the public transport is accurate down to the minute is also a lie.

[-] [email protected] 1 points 2 months ago

I do, if it's early it just waits. Although tbh usually it's 1-2 minutes late which isn't a big deal

[-] PilferJynx 1 points 2 months ago

Yep, quarter hours are how we normally function today. Which is fine and I wholly agree. You still need the second for that system to function though, as you can't get that without measuring time.

[-] [email protected] 2 points 2 months ago

I mean, the actual length of a second is pretty arbitrary. We could use a different basic unit of time and still be fine, but I get the point you're making. I was never trying to argue that the invention of the clock was a bad thing, just that modern society has a problem with overly precise "measurement" of things that themselves aren't actually as consistent as the measurements.

[-] [email protected] 1 points 2 months ago

Germany enters the chat.

[-] [email protected] 16 points 2 months ago

There were things like tracking guard shifts after sundown but the candle or an hourglass would be sufficient for that. It's usually a case where you don't actually care about what time it is now but you do care about time elapsed.

this post was submitted on 26 Feb 2024
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