May 8th, 2008

bsg gaius

the deal with future email from 1/1/38

I have an overactive spam filter on my Yahoo mail, which grabs things like story submission confirmations and important workshop info. So I have to make regular trips to the spam folder to "unspam" useful mail.

Once I'm done washing my eyeballs, I realize I saw something interesting. Many, many spam emails have the date "1/1/38" aka January 1, 2038 (which, by the way, is a Monday). I realize they have the future date so they're the latest emails, but why that date?

Being a nerd, I figured it has something to do with the maximal value of the "date" field on an email and how time is measured on computer systems (from a fixed date in the past like Jan 1, 1970).

Turns out that, according to the Intertubes, I'm right. It's the largest date representable with using the 32-bit time value. There's even an associated problem (like Y2K), called the Year 2038 problem (Wikipedia).

And there you go. Wonder no more.