1970 seems to be a popular date for Apple-related glitches. Following on the heels of a “1970” bug that would brick iOS devices, comes a much more benign glitch, which has iPad and iPhone users seeing “ghost” emails from January 1, 1970.
Casually got an email from 1970 pic.twitter.com/dfc3D32n3S
— Jordaroo (@Jordan_Fearnley) February 24, 2016
The emails show no sender, subject or content, and they cannot be deleted, reports the Telegraph:
… Their existence, however, appears to be down to an iPhone glitch, rather than anything more malicious.
Nor are they a mischievous attempt to try to get iPhone users to reset their device’s date to January 1, 1970, a bug that will break the phone possibly beyond repair, despite the similarities in date.
The January 1970 date is simply the Unix equivalent of zero, so the iOS Mail app simply defaults to 1/1/1970 if for some reason a time and date were missing from an email.
A Reddit user explains:
The way it works is that the date is stored as a continuously increasing collection of over a billion seconds (ignores timezone conversions, easy for computers to handle in binary). This is typically called Unix time or Epoch time. For example, the current time right now (in this format) is about 1.45 billion. Like I said, it’s easy for a computer to handle this number to store the date in binary, especially on a 64-bit device. Well, if it’s 1.45 billion right now, what’s 0? The answer is January 1st, 1970, at midnight.
Many of the users reporting the bug say they experienced it when changing timezones. Users who have experienced the bug reported they have fixed it by resetting their iPhone. (This is performed by holding down both the Power and Home Buttons until they see the Apple logo.) This seems to remove the ghost emails, and prevents them from reappearing.
By an odd coincidence, the “ghost” emails are bring reported on the same weekend Raymond Samuel Tomlinson, the man credited with inventing email and coming up with the “@” in email addresses, died at the age of 74.