The man in charge of Time on the Internet is retiring

Originally published at: The man in charge of Time on the Internet is retiring | Boing Boing


To be honest, no one is sure what his job was. Anyway, the retirement party is in the breakroom at 0:00:00 January 1, 1970.


Bet he’s real tired too…


Waaay back circa 1990 (VAX VMS!) we depended on a sub-minute sync between data centers for synchrotron data collection, and wondered if having control of the internet (then still occasionally called “Arpanet”) time standard under a single guy (trustworthy David Mills) could be a point of attack for a Bond villain, (i dunno, international currency exchange or some-such). But then we had a bit too much time between data sets for such silly muses.


I found it interesting that when I needed to setup authentication for NTP, it was also what appeared to be a sole proprietorship run by Judah Levine at NIST. Looks to still be under his purview to this day.

Hand it off to a Time Lord, I say

doctor who dw GIF by BBC America


When asked about retirement he said he just looks forward to having time for himself.


Seems to fit here, especially well.


Great idea.
You won’t know whether you’re coming or going.


I think this is a good time for this change, and NTPd (the software, not the protocol!) has been increasingly less relevant, as chrony, a tool originally created to be better at time sync for laptops and devices with intermittent connectivity (like smartphones) has become more and more common in fixed servers due to the prevalence of the cloud as well. We use it on 100% of the systems we manage now, as it can converge much, much faster than NTPd can, which is great for ephemeral cloud servers.

Time sync is critical for so many applications, and really critical time sync is now handled with the Precision Time Protocol (PTP) and really is a successor for really accurate time within datacenters. Thankfully this isn’t a case of the XKCD posted above, for once. :slight_smile:

Mr. Mills’ focus on accurate time on the internet will be well-cared-for after his retirement, I wager.


There have been a number of cases of long-suffering time nuts having to deal with an unappreciative world. Poul-Henning Kamp had his home IP address hard-coded as the NTP server into millions of routers by clueless firmware writers.


Well, no, thousands of other people have been doing it (see above). It’s just that writers are biologically unable to resist stories where big complicated realities turn out to pivot on a lone writer-like figure at a desk somewhere. Which is not to disparage this guy or Jon Postel or whoever.

But the reason the internet and garbage collection and roads and power and water work is that millions of anonymous people do boring jobs in a responsible and competent way 24/7, and it’s civically unwise to put as much work as we do into dismissing them.


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