'Ghost Emails' From 1969 and 1970 Receiving Renewed Attention

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Following the recent January 1, 1970 iPhone bricking bug, a different long-standing issue related to Unix time and emails is gaining renewed attention, as highlighted by The Telegraph.

The non-malicious glitch has been gaining new traction online recently, with some iOS users sharing screenshots of their devices receiving emails from December 31, 1969 or January 1, 1970. The glitch has been reported by users on both iPhone and iPad as well as Android devices, with those users noting that the messages in question have no content, subject line, or sender, and can not be interacted with.

january 1970 twitter email

The ghost email issue has been reported for many years, and rather than a harmful attempt to infiltrate an iOS device -- or lead users down a path to the January 1, 1970 bug -- it is simply a misrepresentation of the correct status of Unix time. Some cases of the ghost email are showing up when users are traveling to a different time zone, temporarily causing a glitch in communications between mail servers and a few email clients, including the stock iOS Mail app and even Microsoft's Outlook iOS app.

The emails often appear when iPhone users are checking their emails in a different timezone. January 1, 1970 represents 0 in UNIX time – the way that computers often understand times and dates. One Reddit user who reported it appeared to be using Microsoft's Outlook app.

Every second since midnight on January 1 1970 is a different point in UNIX time (we’re currently at around 1.45 billion). So when an email is sent without any time data, or a timezone bug means it can’t be interpreted, the iPhone will default to zero – 1970.

With the issue causing emails to show up with timestamps of midnight GMT on January 1, 1970, users in the Western Hemisphere see dates of December 31, 1969 on their ghost emails due to timezone offsets.

The issue can sometimes be fixed by simply closing the email app and reopening, while others have found success with subsequently performing a hard reset on the device (pressing down the Home and lock buttons until the iPhone or iPad restarts). The more notable January 1, 1970 date bug bricked iPhones with a date manually set to May 1970 or earlier, and Apple will be fixing the issue with its forthcoming iOS 9.3 update. In comparison, the ghost email reports -- which include a long list of affected users -- are simply a nuisance.

Top Rated Comments

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58 months ago
Who you gonna call? GHOST EMAIL BUSTERS!
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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58 months ago

Who you gonna call? GHOST EMAIL BUSTERS!

Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
58 months ago
"UNIX was not designed to stop you from doing stupid things, because that would also stop you from doing clever things."

— Doug Gwyn
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
58 months ago

Who you gonna call? GHOST EMAIL BUSTERS!

I just got home after a long day at work and, for some reason, I can't stop laughing at your post.

Thank you for that! :)
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
58 months ago
Maybe time-travellers are trying to contact us?
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
58 months ago
Had this exact email pop up a couple times. Always wondered what that was about. I like the idea someone else had, time travellers are trying to get our attention.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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