How to Convert Ticks to a Date

Written by kevin walker
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Computers store the current time in terms of the number of "ticks" that have elapsed since a certain date, known as the beginning of the "epoch." A tick is a metaphor for the ticking sound made by an analogue clock every second, however, the length of a tick varies for each operating system. Unix systems have a one-second tick, while Windows systems use a 100-nanosecond tick and Mac OS X systems have a one-millisecond tick. Similarly, different systems use different dates to mark the beginning of their epoch. For Windows, that date is Jan. 1, 1601, at precisely midnight UT/GMT. For Unix and Mac OS X, the epoch begins on Jan. 1, 1970, at precisely midnight UT/GMT. You can write a simple program in the free language Ruby that will take a number of ticks and compute the current date from them.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Ruby

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  1. 1

    Open a text editor and save the document with the name "tick2time.rb."

  2. 2

    Paste the following code within it:


    ticks = Integer(ARGV[1])

    if ARGV[0] == "--s":

    # do nothing

    elsif ARGV[0] == "--ms":

    ticks = ticks / 1000

    elsif ARGV[0] == "--ns":

    ticks = ticks / 1000000



    The first line is only for users of Mac OS X or Linux: it should identify the location where Ruby is installed. The program takes the number of ticks from the command line along with a "tick length" argument that can be set to "--s" for second, "--ms" for millisecond or "--ns" for nanosecond. Whatever the tick length is, it is adjusted to the second-length tick that Ruby expects for its Time function.

  3. 3

    Save your work.

Tips and warnings

  • The epoch is the epoch for the current operating system. So, "tick2time.rb --s 0" will give different results on Windows and Unix computers, since each computer begins its epoch at drastically different times.

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