2/16/09

So, Did You Party Like it Was 1234567890?

On Friday the 13th at at 23:31:30 GMT, Unix computers using ten-digit clocks displayed 1234567890. Computer geeks around the world saluted that night. Twitterers tweeted the party rally: "1234567890". But apparently the party of geeks ushering in this new era must now turn their programming prowess into another type of number crunching: switching for 32-bit integer counting system to a 64-bit integer system. Now I'm no programmer and I barely understand what I'm talking about, but the gist of it is that a number of our current programs used in air traffic control and the like are programmed using Unix timers that are based on 32-bit integer systems and, as a result, running on a limited clock. The Unix clock counts up to only a finite number of seconds: 4,294,967,296, to be exact. Taking into account "leap seconds"--yes, just like leap years--that's about 136 years. So we are looking at the Unix clocks running out of time around the year 2038. Remember the millenium bug (Y2K) everyone was panicked about when the clocks struck 2000? I had friends that had pulled out wallets full of cash and hid it behind paintings . . . (no, it wasn't me, I swear. It was a friend!). So now our dear programming friends are frantically--ok, maybe not so frantically--making the switch to 64-bit integers that can count up to 293 billion years into the future. Bear in mind that these are all only displayed in binary codes so the non-programmers among us are for the most part completely unaware of this problem. So for us commoners, we must proceed with caution and ask our IT staff the delicately framed question, "so, tell me, IT God, what integer system are our servers running on?" (When approaching the inner sanctum of IT, it is always best to go bearing gifts. Cookies work for me.) I swear, with all the economic doom and gloom going on, I'm just waiting for the Mayan calendar to run out. Maybe we just won't have to deal with any of this anymore. **heavy sigh**

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