Friday, March 04, 2011

Zoneinfo-Arthur David Olson is retiring

It is geek out Friday for me. In the spirit of weird things that interest me I found a reference to Arthur David Olson retiring. For those of you who have never heard of the esteemed Mr. Olson. Any *nix geek is aware of the database that is used to tell your computer when to switch to/from daylight savings time. If you thought that this database was maintained by some central authority somewhere, as most people do, you couldn't be more incorrect. Arthur David Olson is the founder and maintainer of the Zoneinfo or tz database which is used by computer systems everywhere to determine when to switch to and from DST. He created it, and has maintained it as a labour of love since its inception. He has suddenly become a bit of a celebrity because he is retiring and IANA is scrambling to take over ownership of this important function.
But while that in itself is interesting what is even more interesting is that the tz database is not just a boring database of rules for timezones, it is a historical compendium of timezone rules and the history behind them dating back hundreds of years. Given that it is just a plain-text file, anyone can read this history. Some of it is very intriguing. A brief description of some of the nuggets in the database can be found at Jon Udell's Blog or you can download a copy to peruse at

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