Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

The stupidity of smart devices

November 1, 2010: 12:06 PM ET

There's a lesson to be learned when your digital clock misplaces an hour

The space time continuum of my life was briefly warped Saturday afternoon when my alarm clock suddenly dropped an hour. Not only had it mixed up PM with AM, but it was confused -- permanently, it turns out -- about when Daylight Saving Time ends.

Programmed more than five years ago, the chip that runs my clock was never informed about the bill George Bush signed in 2005 that shifted the end of DST in the U.S. from the last Sunday in October to the first Sunday in November.

My temporary disorientation, however, was nothing compared with the sluggish legions of iPhone owners who have come to rely on their clock apps to get them to work on time.

According to Thomas Ricker's multiply-updated item in Engadget, Twitter was lit up overnight Sunday as reports circled the globe of iPhone alarms going off at the wrong time. First, an hour early in New Zealand and Australia. Then an hour late in the Middle East and Europe. Finally, according to his most recent update, an hour early in the U.S.

Apple (AAPL) has been aware of the so-called DST bug since late September, according to TUAW, and is expected to fix it in iOS 4.2. But whether that happens before or after the clocks of most states "fall back" on Nov. 7 remains to be seen.

Users can avoid the problem, according to Engadget, by setting their iPhone alarms to never repeat, or to repeat every day. Or they can switch to an alarm clock that doesn't think it's smarter than it is.

In defense of smart clocks, the Daylight Saving Time system, as it is practiced around the world, is a mess. See the map below the fold.

Source: Wikipedia

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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