Time is all around us.
At any point, you likely have at least one clock within viewing distance. Is anyone caught without their cell phone these days? As I’m writing this, I have the time in the lower right corner of my laptop screen, the display of my smartwatch, my cell phone and an analog clock on the wall. With the exception of the analog clock, they are all displaying perfect time synchronization. Time is so integrated into our lives that checking it has become second nature. I’ve already glanced at it more than once and we’ve only made it through the introductory paragraph.
When do we need to be at work? When do we get off work? When is lunch? When will we be meeting up with our friends this evening? When is that doctor’s appointment? We make these plans and fall into these routines all thanks to accurate time synchronization! Think about it for a moment:
When you start a new job, do you synchronize your watch with the clocks at work? Probably not, right? Why? You have the innate trust that your clock is close enough to their’s that it isn’t necessary.
Where does that trust come from?
How do you know other clocks display the same thing as your clock? Unless time synchronization is something you do for a living, you don’t know for certain. But, you trust that this is so because accurate time is a core building block of modern society.
Are you a Millenial? If so, you have never lived in a world without the Network Time Protocol (NTP). That means you’ve never lived in a world without worldwide time synchronization. If you’re an older Millenial – like me – you have memories of reprogramming the clock on the stove and VCR/DVD player after the power went out. To do this, we would call information and a nice robot voice would tell us. Easy peasy!
Have you ever wondered how the nice robot voice knew the time?
That nostalgic voice from our childhood lives on a server synced to a network of servers running NTP. With NTP being the most widely used time protocol in the world, clocks you trust are using it every day. If an internet connected clock doesn’t rely on NTP for time synchronization, it relies on a time protocol that NTP paved the way for.
Network Time Foundation develops and maintains open-source time software, including the Reference Implementation for NTP. As a non-profit organization, we rely on the financial contributions of individuals and institutions to fund this important work that we all benefit from every day. To make a donation click here. To become a member click here. To learn all the other ways you can help support us click here.