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August 13th, 2001

Billionth Second of UNIX Party!

Hey, I got this from the Geek Austin mailing list and thought some people in this journal might be interested.

So, the billionth second of the Unix epoch is coming up in a couple of weeks. What's that, you ask?

Unix, internally, keeps track of time as a really big integer number
representing the number of seconds since 12am on Jan. 1, 1970. Why?
Well, Unix was being born around then. And, why not? Makes about as much
sense as basing a year system around the birth of a random, long dead jewish

So, when is the billionth second since midnight about thirty one years
ago? It's Sat Sep 8 20:46:40 2001. And GeekAustin is throwing it's first

GeekAustin Billionth Second Bash
Sat Sep 8, 6:00 at
Opal Divine's Freehouse
700 West 6th St.
Austin, Texas 78701

There will be free food, courtesy of LinearB and co., if you get there
early enough. haha. (Don't come late like you did to Prodigy's Job Fair.) We
don't want your money. We don't want your resume. We just want you to come
drink with us...in a refreshing recruiter-free environment.

Read more for the technical analysis, courtesy of Orion:

So how do you see the Billionth Unix Second for yourself?
Perl to the rescue. The "localtime()" function takes a time in unix
epoch format (a big integer) and prints out the time that number represents
in your current locality.

Here's a perl one-liner to pretty print this:

orion@entropy:~$ perl -e "print localtime(1000000000) . \"\n\""
Sat Sep 8 20:46:40 2001

Interesting side effect of this is that Unix will have a Y2Kish number
problem when unix epoch time is X + 1 where X is the max size of a
(signed, because unix deals with negative epoch too for times < 1970) integer of
a given "bitness". So the max value of a 32bit integer that is signed is,
IIRC, 2147483647. What time does this correspond to? Again, perl to the

orion@entropy:~$ perl -e "print localtime(2147483647) . \"\n\""
Mon Jan 18 21:14:07 2038

So if we're still using 32bit unix in 37 years we'll have a problem
(macs, btw, operate the same way; maybe 'cuz jobs ran a unix company for a
But what about 64bit unix? Ok, so I'm not going to repeat the calculations,
but the 'failure day' for that is over half a trillion years from now
(consider that 2^33 is twice as big as 2^32, now think about 2^64)

SO, now that we've established that there is a big round number coming
up soon, let's PAR-TAAAAAAAAAY!!! (hey, this rationale worked for the year

See you there!

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