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Time/Date Specification Processing

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000035866D
Original Publication Date: 1989-Aug-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Jan-28
Document File: 3 page(s) / 58K

Publishing Venue

IBM

Related People

Andrews, K: AUTHOR [+3]

Abstract

This article describes a concise notation for a formatting process which gives end users of systems requiring date and time inputs a wide range of input formats acceptable by systems with a narrow choice of input standards.

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Time/Date Specification Processing

This article describes a concise notation for a formatting process which gives end users of systems requiring date and time inputs a wide range of input formats acceptable by systems with a narrow choice of input standards.

There are many conventions for representing times and dates, some national, some local. When showing a date in a confined space as in a business chart on a display screen, one may need abbreviated forms specially designed for the case in hand. Specification of time/date formats in computer systems has traditionally been the task of system installers. End users have to conform to a limited and inflexible set of formats chosen for them by those system installers. For example, the REXX programming language offers nine forms of date including 'European' (dd/mm/yy) and 'US' (mm/dd/yy); while the GDDM installation procedure offers just four forms. Abbreviation is done by truncation, and input dates are not recognized as such.

This process permits a time/date formatting process which is easy for a wide range of computer end-users to learn and use. caters to a wide range of formats, including all normal documented national time/date conventions. describes input formats, as well as output formats, for times/dates which may already be in a computer file and which are not easy to modify. This is important for 'data import' applications, where a pre-existing file must be used, which the user may not have created and whose format he cannot control, rather than the user typing data directly in at the terminal. is independent of national-language to the extent that users in non-English speaking countries see items such as month names in their local language. Practical problems exist with unfamiliar formats. American style dates often confuse Europeans and vice versa.

The Process: A time/date is considered to consist of 'elements' and 'separators'. For example, in the 'European' and 'US' representations described above 'dd' and 'mm' are elements, and '/' is a separator.

This method represents time/date elements by single digits, and separators by arbitrarylength strings of non-digits. The meaning of the elements may be refined by secondary codes which could, for example, be selected on a menu panel by the user. Example

Consider the date format specified by '5/3/1'. The digits (5, 3 and 1) are time/date elements, as indicated above, and the non-digit (/) is a separator. By convention '1' represents 'year', '3' represents 'month' and '5' re...