Sun Mar 18 07:22:43 EDT 2012

fun facts

Two things on Wikipedia today which I found mildly amusing.

Did you know: The numeral system which the Western world refers to as "Arabic" numbers, are actually called "Indian" numbers by the Arab world? The numeral system used by Arabs is the Arabic-Indic system, which shares a couple glyphs with Hindu-Arabic numerals, but, hilariously, represent completely different numbers? ٩ is 9, logically enough, but ٦ is 6, ٥ is 5, and ٤ is 4!

Furthermore, did you know that India has a whole pile of numbering systems, presumably just to confuse foreigners?

Also, everybody older than 18 remembers the Y2K panic; when on January 1st, 2000, two digit year representations rolled over, and widespread chaos was predicted to occur when various computer systems would stop working. Of course, thanks to a great deal of money being spent, this did not happen. (Though there were some pranks.)

Slightly more au courant nerds are aware of the year 2038 problem, when 32-bit Unix timestamps roll over. But did you know: there are a whole bunch of these problems?

In 2036, the timestamps in the NTP protocol, which has been used for the last 25 years to synchronize the clocks of more or less every server on the internet, will roll over. On September 17, 2042, the internal clock used by IBM mainframes will roll over. (System/360 has a number of delightful idiosyncrasies, thanks to 40 years of cruft.) The year field used by the Windows FAT filesystem will roll over in 2107. Four digit years will roll over in the year 10,000. Fun!

Various minor errors have resulted from Y2K-like problems, but on other dates. Taiwan uses a calendar with year 1 set to 1912, which meant they saw their first three digit year in 2011: the Y1C problem. Some Unix programs threw errors on the Unix Billennium, when Unix time hit 1000000000 on September 9th, 2001. (The events of two days later slightly overshadowed this.)

Did you know: It's a miracle anything works at all?

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