09 April, 2013

A To Z Challenge: Horology And How Your Computer May Be Going To Spaz

  © Copyright Peter Trimming and licensed for
reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Horology is the science of measuring time and the study of making timepieces. Humans have been working at the definition and measurement of time for thousands of years; as early as 3100 BCE the Egyptians had developed a 365-day calendar based on the appearance of the star Sirius in the sky and around 3500 BCE they had developed obelisks that acted as sundials. Technology has come a very long way since large angular pillars stuck in the ground, and our current idea of a "clock"--a steady mechanism capable of standing on its own--began to emerge in 1656 when Christiaan Huygens developed the first pendulum clock.

Taking another rather large leap forward in time, today's computers (whether PC or Apple or what have you) are running on what's known as Unix Time. (The name "Unix" comes from the fact it was a dominant operating system back when computing was just getting started.) It's based on a 32-bit number and has been counting every second since January 1, 1970.

Once the number reaches 2,147,483,764, however, there's a bit of a problem: When a 32-bit number reaches this value, it can no longer count upwards. Because of this, computers using Unix Time will revert to December 13, 1901 once time hits January 19, 2038, i.e. devices will believe it's the 1900s when it's actually the mid-2000s. The solution? Switch to 64-bit systems, which will run out of values in the year 292,277,026,596.




Is your computer a 32-bit? Do you think there will be any major problems in 2038, or do you think all the important devices will have been replaced with 64-bit by then?

-----The Golden Eagle


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

And if someone has a computer with sixteen bit still running by that time, I will be impressed!

The Golden Eagle said...

Alex: LOL. That would be really old technology by 2038.

Pat Hatt said...

haha yeah ancient tech by then and of course robots will have taken over the world, maybe?

There will prob be some y2k nut types though. After all they need a new date for when the world will end.

Andrew Leon said...

I don't think there's a single thing running today that will still be being used by then. I mean, no one still has computers from the 80s that they are actually still using.
Besides, by 2038, we'll have quantum computers.

Old Kitty said...

I'd be tempted to keep the 32bit going just to see what happens! LOL! Take care

Mark Noce said...

Wait, that sounds like Y2K all over again...time is relative and it's interesting how we perceive time in the brain...makes me wonder if linear time is actually real, but that's another conversation:)

Laura said...

Hmmm - Y2K didn't go totally mad, so I'm thinking it'll be okay :)

Maria Dunn said...

As quickly as technology is changing these days, I imagine we will have switched things out by then. I have to agree it would be another Y2K scare if it isn't dealt with. Quite interesting posts. I am learning a lot from your blog. God bless, Maria from Delight Directed Living

klahanie said...

Enlightening posting. Suddenly I'm recalling the "Millennium Bug". As noted by a number of your fans here.


Brett Minor said...

Y2K was the first thing I thought of. I would expect that any computer of real importance would not be using such an antiquated system by that time. No reason we should expect planes to be falling out of the sky...I think.

Dropping by from A to Z. It's my first year participating.

Brett Minor
Transformed Nonconformist

Ava Quinn said...

I was always fascinated by the clock/calendar created for the movie Castaway.

Many have also used the position of the Big Dipper as a clock and calendar.

I'm a little off topic. Can't speak to the tech end, just the history and natural science end. lol.

M Pax said...

Computers don't seem to last very long these days, so I don't think I'll worry about 2038... I might not still be ticking by then. Hyugens was an interesting guy.

Liz said...

Wow, interesting. And my thought was the same as the others: Y2K all over again. So, non-issue.

Susan Kane said...

I will probably be using a walker by then, and cursing at those new fangled 64-bit thingies.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

By 2038, we'll probably have computer chips in our head instead.

JeffO said...

So, unlike the feared "Millennium Bug", this one might actually cause a problem?

Li said...

Hopefully I'll be retired by then and the only thing that I'll care about is whether I get three meals a day and still have all of my teeth.

mshatch said...

I think everything will have been replaced by then.

Cindy Dwyer said...

Oh, no! It'll be Y2K all over again!

Michael Di Gesu said...

What a nice blend of science and history...

I believe they will change over before TIME runs out.... Lol.

Trisha F said...

Pretty sure my mum's dad was a horologist, or at least he made watches ;)

Krista McLaughlin said...

Oo yikes! I'm glad I have a 64 bit computer. That saves me for a little longer, right? :)

Adam said...

I think it will be outdated by then

Elise Fallson said...

I don't think they'll be any major problems by 2038, at least not from computers . . .

Horology is a great ology word!

Misha Gericke said...

Really interesting!

I read somewhere once that no one knows who invented the first watch. :-)

Angeline Trevena said...

Interesting. Well, I've got a little while before I need to worry about upgrading my computer then!

Margo Kelly said...

Ancient technology ... *sigh* Once again, I'm smarter after reading your blog! :)

C. Lee McKenzie said...

Thank goodness for the 64 bit. I'd hate to run out of time before the AtoZ is over.

Paula Martin said...

I doubt I'll still be here in 2038 so I won't start worrying about this!
Visiting from the A-Z Challenge
Paula Martin

The Golden Eagle said...

Pat: Maybe. I would be willing to bet the amount of technology in our lives will be higher!

Andrew: I really hope quantum computers are a thing by then.

Old Kitty: I know! It would be fun to keep an old computer running just to see it say it's 1901. :)

Mark: Wow, that's food for thought. You should post about it sometime!

Laura: It probably will be. Maybe the odd system here or there will run into problems, but otherwise I think the world will go on just fine.

Maria: Technology moves very fast these days--you're likely right!

Thank you for reading. :)

Gary: It's been compared to it, certainly.

Brett: I don't think so, either. And I expect important systems like airplane computers would be updated by then.

Ava: I've never seen Castaway. Interesting that they'd invent one for a single movie.

I appreciate the different perspective! :)

Mary: I don't know a whole lot about the man but from what I've read he did some landmark things.

Liz: Hopefully!

Susan: Heck, I'm not sure I want to transition myself and this is 2013. :P

Diane: What an eerie thought . . . I'd hate to imagine a chip in someone's brain malfunctioning!

JeffO: Well, it depends on whether the important computers are upgraded to 64-bit.

Li: Food and the ability to eat food is definitely more important than computers.

Mshatch: I think most of the vital systems will be.

Cindy: Probably, at least to some extent.

Michael: Glad you liked the post!

Ha, yeah. :)

Trisha: That would count! Horology is also the "art of making timepieces", according to the dictionary.

Misha: I didn't look into the first watch . . . but that sounds plausible. A lot of inventions seem to be that way.

Angeline: 25 years or so. :)

Margo: Hey, that's cool. I try to put in interesting information!

Lee: Me, too. A crash during the A-Z Challenge would be bad.

Paula: It's a pretty long way off from today.

Paul Tobin said...

I did not know this about computers-very interesting. i am enjoying the challenge.

The Golden Eagle said...

Paul: I didn't find out about Unix Time, either, until I found the video on YouTube. I'm a big fan of numberphile.

Glad you're enjoying it! :)

Deniz Bevan said...

Oh! Is that what the difference is between 32 and 64? Does that apply to browsers too? This may sound stupid, but could someone with an old computer who still wants to use it simply turn off the pc's internal clock?
And didn't we already go through this with Y2K? :-)

The Golden Eagle said...

Deniz: I'm not sure about browers--and in theory, I think you could just change the clock. :) I know people have hacked their own computers to set new dates.