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Encoding time as a number
Unix time is a single signed integer number which increments every second, without requiring the calculations to determine year, month, day of month, hour and minuterequired for intelligibility to humans. Modern Unix time is based on UTC, which counts time using SI seconds, and breaks up the span of time into days almost always 86 400 s long, but due to leap secondsoccasionally 86 401 s[note 4] this keeps the days synchronized with the rotation of the Earth as per Universal Time.
The Unix epoch is the time 00:00:00 UTC on 1 January 1970 (or1970-01-01T00:00:00Z ISO 8601). There is a problem with this definition, in that UTC did not exist in its current form until 1972; this issue is discussed below. For brevity, the remainder of this section uses ISO 8601date format, in which the Unix epoch is 1970-01-01T00:00:00Z.
The Unix time number is zero at the Unix epoch, and increases by exactly 86 400 per day since the epoch. Thus 2004-09-16T00:00:00Z,12 677 days after the epoch, is represented by the Unix time number 12 677 × 86 400 = 1 095 292 800. This can be extended backwards from the epoch too, using negative numbers; thus 1957-10-04T00:00:00Z,4 472 days before the epoch, is represented by the Unix time number -4 472 × 86 400 = -386 380 800.
Within each day, the Unix time number is as calculated in the preceding paragraph at midnight UTC(00:00:00Z), and increases by exactly 1 per second since midnight. Thus 2004-09-16T17:55:43.54Z, 64 543.54 s since midnight on the day in the example above, is represented by the Unix time number1 095 292 800 + 64 543.54 = 1 095 357 343.54. On dates before the epoch the number still increases, thus becoming less negative, as time moves forward.
The above scheme means that on a normal UTC day,of duration 86 400 s, the Unix time number changes in a continuous manner across midnight. For example, at the end of the day used in the examples above, the time representations progress as...
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