I Love the Fri Jul 28 2006 21:27:13 GMT-0400 (EDT)’s

Usually I like being over-worked, because it distracts me from my normal self-involved maudlin navel-gazing. But apparently my inner blogger is fighting for attention, because the weirdest bout of unexpected nostalgia popped in my head this morning.

I was in the shower, convincing myself that the code I’d written last night would work while washing my privates. (Hopefully, it’ll work while not washing my privates as well). This particular bit would work, I told myself, because all of the records in our database are keyed with a GUID. Then I became momentarily nostalgic and despondent.

A GUID, or Globally Unique IDentifier (also known as a UUID for Universally Unique), is a chunk of data that’s virtually guaranteed to be unique, any time you create it. So conceivably, a billion people on a billion different computers could create a new entry in your database a billion times, and each one would have a unique value. It works by taking a bit of info that identifies you and your computer and a semi-random number, but that’s mostly just extra padding. The key part of it is the current system clock time.

Thinking about it in that context was the first time it really struck me how fleeting time is. The milisecond you hit that button is never going to happen again. In fact, it’s never going to happen again to such a degree that the moment you did it can be used to uniquely identify you among billions of other people for all perpetuity. It’s like one of those old depressing bearded 1800s poets telling you “You can’t go home again” and then backing it up with mathematical proof.

The other day I drove by my old high school for the first time in years. It’s barely recognizable any more; there’s a huge multi-story addition with a separate entrance in front of what used to be the band room. It occurred to me that it’s been eighteen years (567,648,000,000 miliseconds, unless my math is off) since I graduated. And an enormous chunk of those trillions of miliseconds were completely wasted or worse, have been completely forgotten.

It’s probably just a combination of sleeping in my childhood bedroom and spending too much time in front of a computer, but now I’ve joined Roast Beef Kazenzakis and the developers of C# as the only people on the planet who can become depressed thinking about Java.

2 thoughts on “I Love the Fri Jul 28 2006 21:27:13 GMT-0400 (EDT)’s”

  1. That’s kind of neat. You could attempt a kind of nostalgia by setting your machine’s system clock back a few years. Then again, you can’t set it very far back. Now that I think about it, I was born before the start of the Unix epoch. Even if I were to try to recapture those days by setting the clock back, the clock won’t go back that far.

    As we approach 2038 and various Unix programmer weenies scramble to update their time code so that their fields don’t overflow, there will be a temptation to come up with a new way to represent dates. And when that happens, there will be a strong temptation to make 2000 the base date. If that happens, bam, another 30 years of my life I can never revisit.

    Thus does the universe sweep my old mistakes under the rug.

  2. Wow, that brings up a thought more depressing than anything I’d been able to come up with:

    What if the beginning of human history really were midnight on January 1st, 1970? Could they not have picked a more dismal and defeatist starting point?

    I don’t see 2038 being all that big a deal, mostly because it’s not as catchy as Y2K. Besides, by that point we’ll all be using 1024-bit processors (those of us who are Left Behind, anyway), and when we look at ancient code that refers to 32-bit numbers as “long,” we’ll just snicker and roll our cyber-eyes.

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