Why does Unix time start at 1970-01-01? Why not 1971-01-01 or any other date?
I wouldn't have known the answer except google was there for me:
From Here (needs free subscription):
Linux is following the tradition set by Unix of counting time in seconds since its official "birthday," -- called "epoch" in computing terms -- which is Jan. 1, 1970.
A more complete explanation can be found in this Wired News article. It explains that the early Unix engineers picked that date arbitrarily, because they needed to set a uniform date for the start of time, and New Year's Day, 1970, seemed most convenient.
Unix isn't born in 1970.
The Unix epoch is midnight on January 1, 1970. It's important to remember that this isn't Unix's "birthday" -- rough versions of the operating system were around in the 1960s. Instead, the date was programmed into the system sometime in the early '70s only because it was convenient to do so, according to Dennis Ritchie, one of the engineers who worked on Unix at Bell Labs at its inception.
I like the question :-)
Let me attempt to answer it (ofcourse source: internet)
Unix Time is represented by a 32 bit whole number (an integer) that can be positive or negative (signed). Unix was originally developed in the 60s and 70s so the "start" of Unix Time was set to January 1st 1970 at midnight GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) - this date/time was assigned the Unix Time value of 0. This is what is know as the Unix Epoch.
A 32 bit signed integer can represent whole numbers between -2147483648 and 2147483647. Since Unix Time starts at 0, negative Unix Time values go back in time from the Epoch and positive numbers go forward in time. This means that Unix Time spans from Unix Time value of -2147483648 or 20:45:52 GMT on December 13th 1901 to Unix Time value of 2147483647 or 3:14:07 GMT on January 19 in 2038. These dates represent the beginning, the pre-history and the end of Unix Time.
The end of Unix Time will occur on January 19, 2038 03:14:07 GMT. On January 19, 2038 03:14:08 GMT all computers that still use 32 bit Unix Time will overflow. This is known as the "Year 2038 problem". Some believe this will be a more significant problem than the "Year 2000 problem". The fix for the Year 2038 problem is to store Unix Time in a 64 bit integer. This is already underway in most 64 bit Operating Systems but many systems may not be updated by 2038.