Standards of Time Document in The Ocean | World Anvil
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Standards of Time

The Standards of Time proclamation is the outcome of two and a half years of debate among Stolc's Worthies addressing the problems caused by the plethora of unrelated units of time. Ultimately, this document became the foundation for measurement of time not just for Stolc or Galtern, but for all the Cluster Islands.

Historical Details


For almost 1500 years from the beginning of the Volcanic Era, there was no precisely defined unit of time smaller than the month. Industries that required precision defined their own units, and most communities had agreements about how to apportion time in a day and night, but no two systems were exactly the same or used the same terminology. Units based on daylight hours were not the same length in all seasons. Even the exact definition of a day was not universally agreed on; farm days usually lasted sunrise to sunrise, while urban days often ended at nightfall.   When air-wave communication became standard in the middle of the 1400s Vol, distant islands were brought into conversational contact for the first time. Dialectors were used at each end to make sure that no meaning was lost, but the language banks at that time did not include many industry-specific terms. Confusion in translating amounts of time sometimes led to disastrous results, especially in medical contexts.


The debate was started by a statement posted to the Worthies' Wall in 1464 Vol listing a large number of time units then in use, and proposing to adopt and define a subset of them to be used as future universal standards. This was approved and signed by a majority of Worthies, but the task proved to be more difficult than anticipated.   For two and a half years there was no more heatedly contested topic in the city. Each unit of time had its supporters and opponents. Hospitals were adamant about using the heartbeat as a base. Craft workers demanded to be allowed to continue using the quarterday as the length of a shift. The only unanimous decision made in the process was to erect a temporary wall specifically for arguments related to time, so as not to overtake other important city matters.

Public Reaction

Most of those who followed the debate closely accepted the results without further argument. The strongest objections came from staff in public eateries, who felt that they were unfairly treated by the decision.* None of the kitchen units were in the final set, requiring all cooking procedures to be rewritten, and every timer had to be replaced.   The transitional year allowed time to integrate these changes, and by its end there could be no denying that the new units greatly simplified matters in communicating with other islands. Those other islands noticed it as well. Within two years all the Middle Isles were also using the system.


The units described in the proclamation remain the standards today. Lightning-powered beat counters are in common use, some small enough to attach to clothing.   The original document, written on paper more than 600 years ago, no longer exists. It was widely copied as the unit system spread, and a replica of it carved in bronze has been erected as a monument at the location in Stolc where the temporary Wall once stood.

*--With the benefit of hindsight, the complaints appear legitimate. However, the decision was based on the relative prevalence of industries with contested units. At the time, hospitals, farms, and craft collectives were the most numerous and received preference. Eateries were far less common and would remain so for two hundred years. (Additionally, the factor of ten convention was chosen specifically to make their conversion easier.) It wasn't until after the Twilight Chaos riots in 1642 Vol that Stolc established their now-standard day and night dichotomous populations, requiring all residents to take their primary meals outside the home.
Signatories (Organizations)
The initial list, in order roughly from largest to smallest:
  • quarterday: half the time between sunrise and the midday break
  • break: long enough for a meal and a good conversation
  • hour: half of a crafting shift, and the longest a worker should spend on a single task
  • heat: cooking time for a single-serving portion of fish
  • rest: long enough for a leisurely snack
  • round: full arm rotation of the standard kitchen timer; 1/10 of a heat
  • breath: duration of a pulse of the lungs when resting
  • step: interval between footfalls in a steady walking pace
  • beat: duration of a pulse of the heart when resting
  • drip: the shortest interval between drops before they become a stream
  The hour, rest, breath, and beat were chosen as the final set, and scaled to make a sequence of multiples of ten. While this kept the length of the beat and breath to within the realm of the physically reasonable, many felt that the length of a rest was too drastically shortened.

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