At the third stroke, the time will be 1234567890

February 12th, 2009 | Categories: general math, retro computers | Tags:

If I were to ask most of you what the exact date and time was right now then you would probably give me an answer based on the Gergorian Calendar system.  For example as I type this sentence, the Gergorian time and date is  “13:50 and 20 seconds on 12th Feburary 2008.”

Of course, the Gregorian calendar isn’t the only calendar system that has been used over the course of history.  Some alternatives that spring to mind (some of which are still used) include the Julian Calendar, the Islamic calendar, the Chinese Calendar and the Roman Calendar.  Check out for a few more examples.

The calendar type I want to discuss today is called Unix Time*

Unix time was created back in the 1970s to serve the time keeping needs of the first Unix based computers and it has been used by many operating systems ever since.  Unix time is very simple – it consists of nothing more than an integer which represents the number of seconds that have elapsed since 00:00 Universal time on January 1, 1970 in the Gregorian calendar.  This may seem like an odd date to start a calendar but they had to start somewhere and it coudn’t be too early since the Unix time had to fit into a 32bit integer. 

So why am I telling you this you may wonder?  Well, the Unix time will soon be 1234567890 which I find fun since I am a numbers nerd.  Since I live in the UK this will correspond to February 13, 2009 at 23:31:30 and I intend to celebrate (well it’s as good a reason as any)!

For some of you, 123456890 will correspond to Valentines day – giving you two reasons to celebrate on that particular day.  To find out exactly when this momentous date falls for you try the following Perl command

perl -e ‘print scalar localtime(1234567890),”\n”;’

Or if, like me, you prefer Python

python -c ‘import time; print time.ctime(1234567890)’

Mathematica doesn’t use Unix time – it measures time from midnight 1st Jan 1900 so to find out when it will be Unix time 1234567890 you need to do something like


Something else that I recently discovered about the number 1234567890 is that both 1234567890 + 1 and 1234567890^2 + 1 are prime (originally from Prime Curios but verified by me using Mathematica).

Finally, if 1234567890 is not interesting enough for you then maybe you are more impressed with the palindromic time of 1234554321 which occurs a few hours earlier – Fri 13 Feb 2009 19:45:21 UTC to be precise.

*As I type this I consider the possibility that there is a formal definition of the term ‘calendar’ and that Unix Time doesn’t fulfill it for some reason.  Feel free to correct me in the comments if this is the case.

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