It seems we've all come to the conclusion that there are three types of arithmetic here -- we can discuss until the cows come home about how useful "classic" (what is implemented in datetime now) arithmetic is, and exactly how it behaves in various corner cases, but it is here to stay for backward compatibility, and if we want either of the other two ("Duration" and "Period"), then we'll need to write implementations of them. 

So the question I have is: do we want to re-use as much of the current API and existing objects as possible, or should we start "from scratch", and design what we want/need now, with all the benefits of hindsight?

For example:

Duration arithmetic is actually pretty easy (or am I just being "naive" ;-) ):

 - convert to UTC
 - do the arithmetic
 - convert back to the time zone desired.

Done. Granted, that's only easy if the "convert" part is done, but once we work out the nuances of the "is_dst" flag, then that's done.

Period arithmetic is theoretically easy, but full of corner cases that have to be resolved, one by one... 

I think the real challenge here is how to get these two while keeping maximum compatibility with the current objects and API. So maybe we shouldn't worry so much about that.

 "the right
thing" to do in Python's current state is to stick to UTC for every
operation apart from conversions for input or output.

Exactly -- and  "the right thing to do" to properly support duration arithmetic is for that to be what happens under the hood.

Which, brings up a point: If new code is going to be written, and new APIs defined, then maybe a re-thinking of the datetime data structure is in order:

As Tim points out, both datetime and timedelta are really just fancy ways to encode milliseconds. They make it easy to work with the calendar representation version of these quantities -- i.e. on I/O -- because that's what humans want to work with. Also, the method of attaching the tzinfo object makes it easy to create and read and write datetimes in a given time zone.

But if one were to design a system optimized for a different purpose, i.e. to support Duration arithmetic, it makes more sense to:

* store datetimes in a "time_unit_since an epoch" representation (e.g. milliseconds since year 1 in the proleptic gregorian calendar)

* store timedeltas in a "time_unit" (e.g. milliseconds)

and (somewhat independent):

* store timezone aware datetimes in UTC, and do the conversion to/from calendar representation on I/O.

[that makes Duration addition described above reduce to: "add two numbers"]

On the other hand, if you want to support "Period Arithmetic" (aka Calendar Operations), then it's easier to use Calendar encoding internally -- after all, "moving to the next day", (or next month, or...) is natural and easy (except for the edge cases!) in Calendar encoding.

All this points to having two independent systems for the two types of math:

two datetime objects
two timedelta objects

That makes it easy to decide what "type" of delta to return when subtracting two dates, and easy for the user to know what type of arithmetic they are going to get.

Also, it could be in a datetime2 package, and have fewer issues with backward compatibility and make it clear to users that they are getting something different than the existing datetime package.


* More code to implement and maintain -- always a bad thing
* Harder for users that need to do both kinds of arithmetic in one application -- if that's a common use case, then one datetime object with multiple deltas might be better. And the datetime object would have to be optimised for one or the other use-case -- so be it.

Another totally side note about API. Particularly for Period arithmetic, the timedelta API feels a bit "OO-heavy" to me:

If I want "tomorrow", I need to do: + PeriodDelta(days=1)

I think I'd rather something like:

or"1 day")

And if the Period arithmetic is in methods, then we don't have to worry about what kind of delta to return  when subtracting.

Just a thought.......

(side question: It seems to me that doing the Period operations one way is pretty straightforward e.g. "add a day", but is it well defined in the other direction? e.g. what is the Period between datetime1 and datetime2?)



Christopher Barker, Ph.D.

Emergency Response Division
NOAA/NOS/OR&R            (206) 526-6959   voice
7600 Sand Point Way NE   (206) 526-6329   fax
Seattle, WA  98115       (206) 526-6317   main reception

Christopher Barker, Ph.D.

Emergency Response Division
NOAA/NOS/OR&R            (206) 526-6959   voice
7600 Sand Point Way NE   (206) 526-6329   fax
Seattle, WA  98115       (206) 526-6317   main reception