Popcorn Too

I wrote this post in 2013.  Given that today is the start of daylight savings time and a few things have changed, I thought I’d do a little rewrite and republish. 

Do you remember POPCORN?  Not the movie snack, but the phone number?  I do.  It was the first phone number my parents allowed me to dial on the phone.  I got to dial it twice a year when the clocks changed for daylight savings time.  It was one of those things you got to do that proved you were getting older – a small right of passage.

It was all a part of the twice-a-year thing when we changed the clocks.  I recall asking my father what was daylight savings time and which bank the daylight got deposited to?  I did want to ask how we could withdraw and spend the saved daylight, but it was clear from the look on his face that it wasn’t a good time to pursue the question.  So, I and my brothers would just call POPCORN and listen to the woman’s voice give us the correct time and go around the house changing all the clocks while listening to my mother complain about how the change was going to make her late for everything.

Didn’t matter whether it was spring or fall, the time change upset my mother.  Well a lot of things upset my mother – like us three brothers “springing forward” to change clocks – this involved a lot of jumping, pushing and “mother, he hit me.”  “Falling back” would get mom in a right foul mood.  Best not to describe that.

Technology has really changed the clock changing rituals.  In the 80’s it meant that in addition to the wrist watches and alarm clocks, there were VCRs and microwave ovens that needed to be changed.  The 90’s added computers, cell phones and car radios to the list.

Then came the whole Y2K scare.  Remember that?  There’s half a million survivalists out there who were greatly disappointed not to be able to stay in their bunkers for more than just the weekend.  The other effect of Y2K was that we in the computer business simply got tired of hearing about it and having to change the clocks on a billion computers twice a year so we put our collective heads together and programmed the whole thing so it just happens, as we say in the business, “auto-magically”.

Now, your cellphone and computer already know when to change and do it without bothering to pester you with the age-old question, “Is it spring forward and fall back or spring back and fall forward?”  These days computers, cellphones, tablets, GPS, some cars and that new mystical thing call IOT (the internet of things) use a something called, NTP (network time protocol) to request the current time from the closest atomic clock.  Yes, these devices completely bypass the old POPCORN system and go straight to the source.

In case you missed the news, most phone companies turned off their POPCORN systems in 2007. 

After 2000 there was one other really big time scare that most of you just simply dismissed. In 2005 our friends in the US congress decided to extend daylight savings time (DST).  Easy enough for them but then they didn’t have a billion and half computers all hard-coded to go to DST on the first Sunday in April.  The major effect of the change from starting DST in April to starting in March was the employment of about 10,000 software engineers for three months to figure out how to reprogram those billion and half devices.

That and it really screwed up my satellite clock.  Yes, I am a bit of a techno geek and for Christmas 1997 a friend bought me a clock that syncs it’s time once a day to a satellite that broadcasts the time from the atomic clock in Washington DC.  That was the year I stopped calling POPCORN.  The clock has a built-in feature that automatically switches to DST on the first Sunday in April.  Cool!

Yes, cool until congress changed the date. Now my fancy satellite clock is wrong for two months out of the year.  But my brand new iPhone is much smarter and has a mode where it periodical calls congress and asks, “Dudes, when’s DST starting this year?” and changes accordingly.

Which is where we are now in our house.  Eighty percent of the devices in our house automatically change to the correct time and the other twenty still need to be changed manually.  So, we now go around the house looking at our Fitbits (which auto-update to NTP) and change the few things that aren’t connected to the internet: Alarm clock, the stove, microwave, two wall clocks and the cat doors.

These days there is a new thing coming at you – the internet of things IOT.  This system lets things like stoves, washing machines, cat doors, doorbells, and microwaves talk on the internet.  In a few years, I won’t be walking around the house changing clocks and instead of beeping, the microwave will just send a text to my eye glasses telling me dinner is ready.

Of course that will be right after the refrigerator reminds me to buy more frozen pizzas.

Till next week,

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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28 Responses to Popcorn Too

  1. I’d never heard of popcorn! Also, mmm…. frozen pizza…


  2. Ann Koplow says:

    I used to dial NERVOUS.


  3. floridaborne says:

    My mom complained about daylight slavings time for years. Then I found out why when I became an adult. It messes up your inner time clock.

    Being technologically savvy is helpful. Many of us are still struggling. After all, we went from manual typewriters and snail mail to systems that write what you speak and instantaneous communication in a about 50 years. 🙂


  4. I too busted my gut in the years leading up to Y2K. At least we ended up with a state of the art system that management wouldn’t have considered otherwise.


    • Yes, I did get a budget benefit out of Y2K. New desktops for everyone, an upgraded lab… I almost got new A/C installed (because the timers were old and likely to fail), but they ended up turning that down because it was the landlord’s responsibility.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. lorieb says:

    I remember the Y2K paranoia well. I worked in a lab then and we spent days guessing what was going to happen when the computers switched over to 2000. My husband (still) works for Bell Canada. He spent new years eve that year listening to everyone across all the time zones cheer “happy new year” one by one, checking that everyone made it LOL


    • The company I worked for then had a bunch of us from the engineer department on standby just in case – even though, months earlier we’d tested and proved our systems “Y2K” compliant. I remember sending friends emails at mid-night asking if their computers had exploded.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a fun post. I still remember calling time–though I never put together the number was POPCORN. Darn. Missed that.


  7. Carrie Rubin says:

    I don’t remember POPCORN, but I do remember Y2K. So much paranoia. People buying animals so they could raise their own food, etc. I was pregnant at the time, so my biggest concern was whether I could squeeze a nap into the day. 😉


    • Y2K was an exercise in paranoia. We in the software and computer businesses had solved the problem months/years before, but the fear mongers wouldn’t let go of a good, “the sky is falling,” story.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. timsablog says:

    Good stuff.

    Our DST (or as we call it British Summer Time) doesn’t start until the end of the month. It dates back to WW1 and during WW2 there was a period of Double BST while in the 1960’s there was an experiment with BST all year round (i.e. GMT + 1). When I commuted into London towards the end of October it was dark when I left in the morning and when I returned home so I looked forward to the return to GMT because it was then daylight at least once a day (when I left in the mornings).

    In comparison Western Australia had for many years kept the same time all year round. When we visited there in early December 2006 we had to change our watches etc. during our stay because that night Western Australia had gone over to Daylight Saving Time for the first time for many years. Many people found this very confusing, especially as it was a three year experiment agreed only a few weeks earlier. Some people ignored the change and places like the Roadhouse between Perth and Denham work from dawn to dusk irrespective of what the clock says. We had to double check the time of our flight out because we didn’t know whether it would be at the time on the ticket or an our later. In fact our flight was an hour later than originally planned. The airlines had obviously decided to keep the timings of interstate flights fixed by the time they were due to arrive or leave the airport outside Western Australia. So our flight arrived at Sydney at the same time as it was originally scheduled. The experiment was abandoned in 2009 and Daylight saving is not observed in Queensland, the Northern Territory or Western Australia.


    • Thanks for the great history. It’s a modern bit of wackiness. One of the arguments for it was that it saved energy. I still haven’t accepted that argument.


  9. jfwknifton says:

    It’s a relief that other countries have to put up with this nutty changing of the time. I suppose that basically I have never understood it, other than the fact that it dates from WW2 and our busy, busy politicians haven’t had the time to change it yet.


  10. PiedType says:

    Never heard of the POPCORN thing. Maybe because I was in Oklahoma then, where it seems they’re always the last to know. We did have a number we could call to get the time and temp, but it wasnt’ anything memorable like POPCORN.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I remember POPCORN! I used to dial it all the time just to hear a human…ok automated…voice. DST really messes with my work schedule. I wish they’d do away with it. Thanks for sharing.


  12. coastalcherokee says:

    I really liked your post very interesting. As i am new to blogging you are a great follow. POPCORN I never realized that and yes 2000 what a scare. Ok be well


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