Why isn’t my time zone highlighted on the world map?

In the original release of Windows 95, you could change your time zone by clicking on the map, and the time zone you selected would highlight. Similarly, you could change your Region Settings by clicking on the world map. This was one of those little touches that made Windows 95 that much more fun to use.

But we had to remove those features within months of release, even though we based both of the maps on the borders officially recognized by the United Nations.

In early 1995, a border war broke out between Peru and Ecuador and the Peruvian government complained to Microsoft that the border was incorrectly placed. Of course, if we complied and moved the border northward, we'd get an equally angry letter from the Ecuadorian government demanding that we move it back. So we removed the feature altogether.

The time zone map met a similar fate. The Indian government threatened to ban all Microsoft software from the country because we assigned a disputed region to Pakistan in the time zone map. (Any map that depicts an unfavorable border must bear a government stamp warning the end-user that the borders are incorrect. You can't stamp software.) We had to make a special version of Windows 95 for them.

Geopolitics is a very sensitive subject.

Comments (35)
  1. andy says:

    Hah, Hillarious. Why can’t we all just get along?

    Nice bit of trivia there, thanks.

  2. Steve says:

    Raymond –

    Are you the guy who wrote the "stupid app of the day" emails during W’95 development?

  3. The newer Redhat graphical anaconda installers allow a fairly cool, and geo-politically neutral, way to select the timezone: the mouse snaps to the closest city available in tz database as you move over a world map. Always wished Windows had that feature.

  4. Samuel Neff says:

    I honestly always wondered where that feature went. Glad to finally know!

  5. I did always wonder what happened to that feature. It’s a shame it disappeared, it was really a nice little touch. Thanks for clearing it up.

  6. dave says:

    Hi – Maybe I’m being a little dense, and I dont really remember the map – But why would it have to show political boundries for setting the time? Couldnt it just be topological with the time boundries drawn on it?


  7. Brooks Moses says:

    Why? Because time boundaries follow political boundaries, in most cases. The disputed India/Pakistan border is certainly one of these.

  8. w.h. says:

    There was at least one case where a terrorist car bomb in Israel/Palestine went off at the wrong time because the Israelies and the palestinians don’t change from standard to daylight savings and vice versa at the same date.

  9. evilbunny says:

    I thought that car bomb thing was a joke, and ended up being an urban myth

  10. Ziktar says:

    I launched the initial release of Windows 95 on one of my test machines here, and the Regional Settings map isn’t clickable. My office mate (a Peruvian…) is trying to say that his country is innocent. So, I’m wondering, was the Regional Settings map only clickable on the Release Candidate then?

  11. richgi says:

    Isn’t this just a matter of localization? Provide a different world map for each country or region, showing how they see the world – just like language or currency symbol.

  12. Raymond Chen says:

    We may have had time to pull the Peru/Ecuador issue in time for RTM. I know we didn’t get the India/Pakistan one in time. If your officemate doubts me, you can go to the Wall Street Journal, August 24, 1995,
    "A Dispute Over India’s Borders Had Microsoft Mapping a Retreat". The clickable map was pulled for all future releases because who knows what country will get upset next. (Also, because localizing bitmaps is really expensive.)

  13. Ziktar says:

    Thanks, that’s what I needed to hear.

    By the way, love the site, it’s quite entertaining.

  14. I live in a country that does not have a problem with the borders. ENABLE THE “CLICK ON MAP” FEATURE IN ALL COUNTRIES WHO HAVE COMPLETELY UNDISPUTED BORDERS. —- duh

  15. Raymond Chen says:

    Perhaps the border isn’t under dispute today, but maybe at some point in the future there’s a war and the borders change and now Windows is banned because it shows the old borders. (Did you know that the border between Connecticut and Rhode Island is under dispute?)

  16. George Tsiokos says:

    Perhaps whats needed is a "web service" provided by Microsoft in which Windows connects and receives the most current undisputed borders on a daily/weekly basis.

  17. Andrew says:

    I hope you’re joking, George. That idea is insane!

    Still, I did notice the absence of this feature in Windows 98 and above. How sad. I really loved the way it would scroll smoothly to whatever timezone you clicked, and ease into its new position. A really nifty piece of UI.

  18. Wes McGee says:

    …but you do realize that since the company took out the ability to set time zones by using the map, that map is now useless and taking up valuable screen space… or at least making the date/time applet use one tab-sheet more than necessary. You can probably stick the time zone drop-down right underneath the calendar where it currently has a static message telling you what time zone you’re currently using.

  19. Will says:

    I really liked that map, always did wonder what happened to it. <sigh>

  20. Raymond Chen says:

    Commenting on this entry has been closed.

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