Nine Nines

(Reposted from 9/9/1999 today at about 9:10 on 11/12/13)

Wednesday, September 9, 1999 - Nine Nines

By Stephen Clarke-Willson

Today is the famous day 9/9/99 (or as using the international standard, 1999/9/9, but that's another story).

Personally, I wouldn't have used four nines to delimit a list of dates in my own code - that's too wimpy! I would have used NINE NINES!

9:99:99 on 9/9/99 (that's nine nines) could easily be stored as a time and date. Of course, if you 'normalized' it, it would really be 10:40:39 on 9/9/99, because you would have to subtract sixty from the seconds and the minutes to normalize it (carrying the extra 'tens' place). (Don't laugh: I bet you can enter 1:99 into your Microwave oven and it will do the right thing and warm your coffee for 2:39.)

Today is the first somewhat official day of Y2K-ness, so I thought it would be appropriate for programmers all over the world to observe a moment of silence at 10:40:39 a.m. Or, for that matter, since we're talking about lame ways of encoding dates, you can do it at 10:40:39 p.m.! Or, do the normalization wrong, and observe a moment of silence at 9:39:39 a.m. or 9:39:39 p.m.! Whatever!

(In some parts of the world it's already 9/10/99 - oh well! Close enough!)

So, whatever you're doing today, at sometime during the day that might be represented by 9:99:99 on 9/9/99, stop what you're doing and think a deep thought. Think about all the Cobol programmers who have gone before, boldly representing dates as strings that may or may not be parsable in the 21st Century.

Then think about what we are going to do when the Unix date function rolls over in 2039. Then forget about it, because, heck, it's still forty years away!