Users have been experiencing a strange and mysterious iPhone glitch recently. In the U.K., they are receiving empty email messages dated January 1, 1970, while in the U.S. users are similarly receiving strange email messages, but in their case they are dated December 31, 1969.
As email didn’t officially take off publicly until the 1990s, iPhone users were understandably perplexed when the messages from 1969 and 1970 popped into their inboxes.
@funsized_emmie you need to check your email more often if you’re just now seeing emails from ’69
— Millie (@millieisme1) February 3, 2016
According to The Telegraph, the iPhone glitch appears to affect users of email apps on the iOS operating system used by iPhone and iPad devices. The strange emails, while dated January 1, 1970 (or December 31, 1969 in the case of U.S. users) do not reveal the sender’s name, have no subject, and cannot be interacted with. Opening the emails apparently yields nothing, and you cannot reply to them.
While some iPhone and iPad users were concerned that this could be some kind of malicious attack on their devices, the problem appears to be the result of an iPhone glitch.
There was recently a mischievous attempt to get iPhone users to reset their phone’s date to January 1, 1970, a bug that reportedly will break the phone beyond repair, but the current incidents are in no way related to that bug.
According to Mirror Online, the emails often appear when iPhone users are checking their emails in a different time zone.
Reportedly the date January 1, 1970 represents 0 in UNIX time, which is the method computers used to understand dates and times. Apparently, since midnight on January 1, 1970, every second is a different point in UNIX time, so if an email is sent without any time data, or if there is a time zone bug the phone can’t interpret, the device will automatically default to zero; in other words, 1970.
Casually got an email from 1970 pic.twitter.com/dfc3D32n3S
— Jordaroo (@Jordan_Fearnley) February 24, 2016
There was one Reddit user, ConduciveMammal, who reported receiving the mysterious messages while using Microsoft’s Outlook app. He posted a message to the social media platform referring to the iPhone glitch and asking, “Did someone try to brick my phone with a 1970 email?”
Referring to the Reddit user’s question about someone attempting to brick his phone, he was referring to the mischievous bug mentioned above, which encouraged people to change their iPhone’s date back to January 1, 1970, thus rendering it useless.
Reportedly, iPhone users who have experienced the email bug have managed to fix it by closing the email app and performing a hard reset on their phones by holding down the lock and home buttons until the iPhone resets.
Reddit user PsychoticMisfit suggested the following method to fix the iPhone glitch:
“Disable then re-enable Mail. Go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars and tap the account in which the phantom messages are appearing. Slide Mail to “Off” then exit Settings and go to Mail; the messages should be gone. Now go back to Settings and turn Mail back on.”
— IBTimesUK Technology (@IBTimesUKTech) March 8, 2016
Of course, when you think about it, no one would have been able to publicly send email back in 1970, or late 1969 in the case of U.S. devices, as the first ever email was said to have been sent back in 1971 by Ray Tomlinson, the pioneer of modern email.
As reported on The Inquisitr, Tomlin, who died on Saturday at the age of 74, sent the first email message on the ARPANET system, a precursor to the internet as we know it today. Tomlin was the inventor who first came up with the use of the iconic @ symbol, used to separate the name of the email account holder from the email server they were using at the time.
Public email was only widely adopted in the 1990s, using software such as Lotus Notes and Microsoft’s Internet Mail, soon to be followed by various web-based email services.