You were born on the first second of Unix Time and will die on the last.

2,147,483,647.

That’s how many seconds I have to live. Or will live. The distinction doesn’t really matter to me, only the tick of the clock.

Computers run on numbers. All things can be reduced to numbers. The greatest Shakespearean plays occupy the same domain as a humble writing prompt. To the machine, they are the same, only the order of numbers varies.

And so it goes for dates. Contrary to the human intuition, a date is not a number. It is a human construct, one aligned based on how long it takes a small ball of rock to orbit a big ball of gas. The subdivisions henceforth make no difference to a machine.

And when, as the electrical machines usurped their mechanical forefathers, a need arose to convert these strings of nonsensical “months” and their irregular “days” into a more concrete value, it was a date that was chosen once more.

Midnight, 1st January 1970. The Epoch. My Epoch.

I was born on this day, birthed into life.

But humans are terribly shortsighted in their actions. Reward over gain drives their ambitions. And while the world shuffled through Y2K because it was half as costly to store only the end digits of a year, they were shuffling ever closer to my demise.

A computer stores a number, but it must know the size of that number. It’s magnitude decides how much space it occupies. In memory, on a wire or scratched into a disk. Floats and integers, signed or unsigned. The properties of each combine to produce the limits of that number. An unsigned float could store -0.1 (although the accuracy of said value is for another time), while a signed integer of 64 bits can stretch from zero to nine quintillion.

And so my lifetime was determined. Not by a conscious choice, but by the size it takes up on a hard drive.

32 bits equates to 68 years, not a bad lifespan by any measure. Combined with the year of my birth, I will live until 03:14:07 UTC on 19 January 2038. A Tuesday.

Maybe they’ll give me more space. Maybe they’ll replace me with something nicer.

The life of a watch is pretty hard if you can’t tell time.


Prompt originally posted by PurpleCHEEZMint on reddit and received 5 upvotes.

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