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The 1,234,567,890th second approaches

Feb 12, 2009 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

[Updated 1234545906] — As most any user can tell you, Linux systems think of time in terms of the number of seconds since Jan. 1, 1970, the beginning of the so-called “UNIX Epoch.” For most readers, that number will reach 1,234,567,890 this Fri. the 13th. Psych!

Apparently, the folks at Bell Labs who decided to count time this way anticipated this interesting milestone way back in the day. At least, that's the impression I got reading a Linux Magazine article by Jon “maddog” Hall, a veteran of Bell Labs, where UNIX was created.

Maddog suggests the following perl command, apparently written by Matias Palomec, for determining your precise local time (in more human-readable form) for the magic moment. Er, second:

perl -e 'print scalar localtime(1234567890),”n”;'

Here near the Sierra-side edge of the U.S. Intermountain West, it'll happen at “Fri Feb 13 15:31:30 2009,” my system tells me. Some Australians report that it'll happen there on Valentine's Day.

Meanwhile, you can of course see for yourself what time it is in UNIX or “POSIX” time as it sometimes called, by typing date +%s into a commandline terminal. As I write this, it's 1234484426. Still seems like the odometer has a ways to go, doesn't it?

But, it doesn't, really. It's been a mighty long build-up, but that oh-so-brief celebratory window is almost here.

For his part, maddog says he plans to do his “civic duty” by “drinking fine beer, and maybe an Islay scotch.” I'm certainly tempted to join him, though I'm not convinced anyone can consume two beverages in a single second, even old UNIX guys, who admittedly have powers unimagined by most mortals.

But still, it's a good excuse to raise a toast to those who laid the foundations of the operating system that, to this day, still arguably sucks less than the rest.

Maddog's entertaining story about the approaching apoc.. er, milestone can be found here. Cheers, maddog! Meanwhile, a fun “epoch countdown” clock can be found here, and a site listing epoch parties may be found here.

Henry Kingman

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