Friday, February 13, 2009

Unix celebrates its 1234567890 th second

It won't be the epochalypse of 2038, but 3:31 p.m. PST on Friday offers a moment notable enough for some Unix fans to raise a toast.
That's when Unix computer clocks will reach the time of 1234567890--1.2 billion seconds elapsed from January 1, 1970, the official beginning of the Unix epoch. The clock is used not just by Unix, but also by Linux, Java, JavaScript, Mac OS X, and various other technologies.
Various Web sites exist to help mark the occasion. Cool Epoch Countdown, which actually counts up, is the first I saw. 1234567890 Day helpfully includes links to a few parties to honor the occasion.
I'm amused by arbitrary milestones whose significance stems from the mathematical consequences of humans' 10 fingers. At least birthdays are anchored to physical reality--the actual revolution of Earth around the Sun--but when your car odometer passes 100,000 miles, it's only significant psychologically and perhaps in relation to your warranty. All the digits neatly in ascending order on a Unix clock is particularly silly given that the computers marking 1234567890 Day aren't even counting in base 10.
But hey, there's nothing wrong with a good excuse for a party, so you won't hear any complaints from me.
Just so long as those Unix sysadmins get back to work and patch things up so the computer world doesn't grind to a halt in 2038, when today's clocks would run out of positive 32-bit integers!

Credit to: cnet News