At 11.31 pm GMT yesterday UNIX fans across the globe celebrated and partied into the night as the “epoch time” clock reached the historic time of 1234567890.The clock was started on the 1st January 1970 and is used to measure ‘Coordinated Universal Time’ on all UNIX based systems.
While the majority of fans are celebrating this anniversary, there are those that are looking to the future and the issue of what happens whenepoch time runs out!
The system was designed to measure time in 32bit, which means it can olny store 4,294,967,296 seconds or 136 years. So on Tuesday, 19 January 2038 UNIX systems will effectively restart their clocks. This is being referred to as the Unix Millennium Bug, due to the similarities with the Millennium Bug caused by the date roll over to 2000. Not that big a deal you may think, nothing happened in 2000, but as UNIX servers run everything from ATM machines to air traffic control systems, not to mention the most part of the internet, I for one am glad a few computer scientists are looking into the problem.
Plans are already in motion to upgrade the system to use 64 bit, which would last for about 293 billion years giving future generations something to worry about.