Unsolved Mysteries of the Unix Timestamp

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Posted on November 26, 2003 4:28 PM in Computers
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

If you're not a geek like me, you may not have heard of the Unix timestamp, also known as the Unix epoch. Basically, some geeks decided it would be cool to base time representation off the number of seconds since January 1, 1970 at midnight. The one downfall of this new method of time tracking, however, is that it will no longer work after 2038. But, the geeks are pretty sure we'll all be using 64-bit computers by then, and this won't be a problem. What will actually happen is probably another Y2K scare, but life wouldn't be as fun if we couldn't rely on one of those every 38 years or so.

Y2K+38 isn't what I perceive to be one of the mysteries of the Unix timestamp, though. What I think is most mysterious about the Unix timestamp is the day chosen as the epoch's beginning. "Why January 1, 1970?" you might have already asked yourself. I asked the same thing. If it were me, the Unix timestamp would have been based on the number of seconds since October 16, 1979, but perhaps that's a bit too selfish. Then again, it might have pushed Y2K Part II off by another 9 years. But anyway, back to the mystery. Or should I say solved mystery? I think I know why those geeks chose January 1, 1970 as their date. "Why?" you ask? Because that is the day Paul Thomas Anderson was born, the mastermind behind such blockbusters as Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love.

You didn't think you'd ever know the real truth behind the Unix epoch, did you?


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