Unix 2038: Epic fail

Last night I was about to go to bed when my dad began extolling the benefits of a Unix system. Of course I did what any other curious twenty-first-century teenager would have done in this situation: I Wikied Unix. Unix is the choice operating system for anyone who is anyone and handles important or money-related information: banks, servers, research professors, and the latest iMacs. Unfortunately, Unix and its users will experience an epic fail sometime in the next 29 years:

Unix stores system time values as the number of seconds from midnight January 1, 1970 (the “Unix Epoch”) in variables of type time_t, historically defined as “signed 32-bit integer”. On January 19, 2038, the current time will roll over from a zero followed by 31 ones (01111111111111111111111111111111) to a one followed by 31 zeros (10000000000000000000000000000000), which will reset time to the year 1901 or 1970, depending on implementation, because that toggles the sign bit. As many applications use OS library routines for date calculations, the impact of this could be felt much earlier than 2038; for instance, 25-year mortgages may be calculated incorrectly beginning in the year 2013.

(2013 is the year I graduate college. Hmmm….)

I get a sinister kind of pleasure from knowing that while I, a clumsy, self-conscious, clueless teenager, deal with everyday blunders like hitting myself in the face with the car door, slamming my fingers in my locker, shaking open containers of orange juice, or dropping 32-ounce yogurt containers on the kitchen floor; successful, respected, mature adults make much stupider and much more expensive mistakes that wreak much more havoc on much greater populations. Because while I might have to deal with wiping yogurt or orange juice off the floor, these individuals cost millions of people billions of dollars and countless hours of work.



~ by science cow on February 20, 2009.

5 Responses to “Unix 2038: Epic fail”

  1. http://xkcd.com/376/

    • Hah! Nice, thanks. I love when xkcd comics relate to my life (which is actually pretty often). ^ ^

  2. I was going to link to the “Epoch Fail” xkcd, but I see Thomas beat me to it. Anyway, glad to see that you’re blogging. I kinda wish I’d kept up with my vlog… Oh well.

    • Awww well you can still bring back your vlog (if you have time). Especially since 20 years from now it’ll be interesting to see what the college you thought about stuff.

      I like blogging. I have a Handheld PC, so now whenever I get bored in class I write about whatever I feel like writing about at the moment. =)

    • And thanks for the comment and thanks for reading! =D

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