Israel does the time warp; daylight savings glitch wreaks havoc

Hundreds of thousands of phones’ software turned their clocks back to end daylight saving time seven weeks too early.

The iPhone 5 on display 370 (photo credit: Beck Diefenbach / Reuters)
The iPhone 5 on display 370
(photo credit: Beck Diefenbach / Reuters)
By the time Adi, an intern at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, got into the car with her husband on Sunday morning and saw the time, it was too late – an hour too late.
Like hundreds of thousands of Israelis who use their smartphones as alarm clocks, Adi and her husband’s schedules were thrown into disarray when their phones’ software turned their clocks back to end daylight-savings time seven weeks too early.
For years, Israel turned back the extended summer clock the weekend before Yom Kippur in order to ease fasting and accommodate prayer times for the autumn. In July, the Knesset approved legislation postponing the change until October 27, in line with Europe.
Google and Apple, apparently, missed the memo.
“I had to drop my husband off at work, which adds a halfhour to the commute, and the traffic is double if we’re late,” said Adi, who asked that her real name not be used. She ended up getting to work two hours late.
“Time is very important in medicine. There’s shift turnover, handing over the ward, getting updates on patients who are on constant monitoring,” she said. “It was ridiculous.”
The problem came from a programmed time change in phone operating systems, which were not updated following passage of the new legislation.
Phones were not the only affected devices; some Apple computers and Google chrome books turned back their clocks, as did several online office productivity programs.
Microsoft managed to steer clear of most troubles, having patched a fix into its Windows software in August, though users of Outlook 2003 and 2007 needed to manually adjust their inboxes.
Neither Google, Apple nor Samsung responded to inquiries from The Jerusalem Post.
Several cellular companies such as Orange and Cellcom sent text messages a week earlier alerting their customers to align their phone’s time settings with Athens, which is on the same daylight-saving schedule as Israel. But even those reminders fell short.
“They send so much junk and promotions and crap that I didn’t even pay attention to it,” Adi said.
Avishai Bitton, a marketing manager at tech start-up Imonomy, had a similar experience; though he saw the text message, over the week of work and holidays it slipped his mind.
“A reminder the night before would have been more helpful,” he said. “I had such a horrible morning, I was ranting the whole way to work in my car. If I’m late to a meeting it can cost a start-up like ours a big chunk of business.”
Luckily, he said, so many people were affected that nobody gave him any grief for his own tardiness.
Sunday’s mishaps were not the first clash between technology and time. For months ahead of the millennium celebrations in 2000, worries spread that computers storing only the last two digits of the year in records would plunge the world into chaos when the 1900s suddenly ended. After New Years 2011, a glitch in the iPhone’s operating system caused alarms not to ring for a few days. Even today, many Israelis who venture into east Jerusalem notice their phones suddenly going back an hour as they switch to towers across the Green Line, only to bring them back to the future when they head west.
With plans for Internet-connected cars and smart watches on the market, the monopoly of tech infrastructure is set to become even more pervasive.
“It just shows how dependent we’ve become on our phones,” said Bitton. “That’s where I check the time, my email and my messages. It’s more efficient.”
He seldom looks at his wrist watch, which serves as a fashion accessory more than a timepiece.
“After today, I will start looking at it,” he said.