Programmers, rejoice! Date and time formatting will be greatly simplified with this one weird alphabetical trick borrowed from ancient Mycenaean Greece!


When specifying a time, some positions may have either one or two digits (e.g. “1 PM” vs “11 PM”), but other positions always have a leading zero, no matter what (e.g. “1:01” and “1:11” both have three digits).


The inconsistency in digits is unnecessary and leads to weird sorting behavior. For example, if we sort the times from 11 AM to 2 PM alphabetically, we end up with this: “1 PM, 11 AM, 12 PM, 2 PM.” Outrageous!

Let’s fix it by using new symbols to give a unique single-character glyph to 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock, an 12 o’clock. If we use existing keyboard characters like “A,” “U,” and “=,” we retain both the ability to easily type these characters, and they will sort in ascending “alphabetical” order (the ASCII default sort order is numbers → letters → symbols), and they can be represented in a traditional 7-segment LED display (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: We chose “A,” “U,” and “=“ to represent “10,” “11,” and “12,” because these symbols can be displayed in a traditional 7-segment LED display, as shown in green above.

If we want to get really comprehensive in fixing date representations, we might want to also replace every day of the month with its own symbol. Figure 2 proposes using the long-defunct Linear B script, which has no living defenders and is thus vulnerable to our repurposing.

Fig. 2: There turn out to be approximately 200 of these Linear B symbols, so we can pick and choose our favorites. If we select them based on how computers already sort these (if there even is a default already), then they’ll even sort properly with no additional work! These glyphs are already in Unicode, so no additional work is there, either.

So in the end, we’ll have a comprehensive time-and-date rework where months, days, and hours can always be represented by a single digit (Figure 3). This will replace the current unpredictable mix of 2-digit and 1-digit values.

Fig. 3: In this example, we’re using the Linear B symbols to represent 24-hour time as well (so we don’t need AM / PM anymore, either). Look how concise the updated times and dates are!


This should save ink and make life easier for programmers, who can now always rely on times fitting into the format YYYY–M–D H:MM:SS (at least for years between 9999 B.C. and 9999 A.D.).

PROS: Should make alarm clocks cheaper to manufacture, since they’ll only need three digits for HOUR:MINUTES rather than four.

CONS: The Linear B symbols aren’t supported by most fonts. Sometimes, they’ll be replaced by a “missing character” symbol, so we might end up with things like “The graduation is on /9!” or “Please report for your court appearance on /!”