[time-nuts] Could computers represent the timestamp differently?

Chris Albertson albertson.chris at gmail.com
Fri Dec 23 14:15:32 EST 2016

Seconds from 1970 always works.   The decision to add a leap second or not
only effects the written out time and date.

If you want to know the number of seconds between tow written out dates
then you need to know if leap seconds were introduced.   This is REALLY
hard for distance further dates.   (Quick some one tell be how many seconds
between now and January 2nd 2367)  But it is trivial to tell me how many
second it will take the seconds count to increase by one billion seconds.

Or put another way.   A seconds counter represents something about nature,
how many times some cyclic even will occur or whatever defines your
standard "second".    But written out date/time is a burly human invention
the the conversion to it from seconds counting is totally arbitrary and the
details do change.   Not only is the conversion to date/time just a
convention but it is also dependent on geophysical events we can not

So the OS counts the number of cycles emitted by some maser or whatever
they use at the time as a standard.

On Fri, Dec 23, 2016 at 5:10 AM, Peter Vince <petervince1952 at gmail.com>

> It seems to me that the major problem with the leap-second is the inability
> of current computer operating systems to represent it, and this is due to
> their using a second count since 1970 rather than writing it out as we
> would by hand.  While it doubtless made sense in the days of floppy discs
> to squeeze tha date and time into a single 4-byte number, with modern
> communication speeds and storage media capacities, that no longer seems to
> be a requirement.  The (numerical) date and time could be packed into 24
> ASCII characters, 12 if BCD was used.  Would it not make sense now for the
> next generation of operating systems to do that?  Yes, those who need to
> find the elapsed time between two time-stamps would still have a problem,
> but isn't the overwhelming major requirement just to represent the
> date/time, and be able to easily show if one timestamp is before or after
> another?
> Peter
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Chris Albertson
Redondo Beach, California

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