Standardization is a truly international activity, and I’ve been lucky to have worked with more nationalities than I can remember. But, that said, my first business meeting with a German remains etched in my memory. It was in fact nothing more than a working breakfast, a chance to meet face-to-face after a good number of productive and friendly phone calls. “So, we’ll meet at the café at half-nine? Look forward to meeting you then!”
It was an embarrassing mistake, though without serious consequence
Well, it turns out that for Germans, half-nine, means half-an-hour-before-nine-o’clock-has-arrived (08:30), while for an Englishman, such as myself, it means half-an-hour-has-passed-since-nine-o’clock (09:30). It was an embarrassing mistake, though without serious consequence; an apology, and the pancakes and coffee on me. But it could have been something much more serious than a fudged Frühstück.
That’s why in 1988, ISO 8601 was published. In a single document, Data elements and interchange formats – Information interchange – Representation of dates and times, established a fool-proof format for computer users, ensuring that critical events happen on time.