A minor bug has been discovered in 64-bit iPhones and iPads. It turns out that setting the device’s date to 1 January 1970 and rebooting it will cause the operating system to become locked in a boot loop, bricking the device. The problem isn’t completely irreversible, but it is quickly becoming an easy prank to pull in Apple stores.
The date in question happens to be first day in the Unix epoch, essentially the starting date from when Unix based systems start counting the passage of time. Apple built iOS based on Unix, and it because of this that the mobile operating system considers 1970 to be the starting of everything. The thing is that the measure of time and dates are usually stored in a 32-bit number; which is does some strange things to the 64-bit systems of the new iPhones.
An iPhone user first discovered the problem while trying to find a way to fix a completely different problem with the consumer preview of iOS 9.3 and shared his discovery on Reddit. Fortunately, there is an easy – if rather inconvenient – method of recovering the phone. It requires completely draining the battery, which will cause the system to lose track of the date and instead reset to the factory default.
Naturally, online message boards 4chan have seized this opportunity to mess with unsuspecting Apple users once again. The #BlastToThePast is being spread over social media with the claim that setting an iPhone’s date to 1 January 1970 will reveal a hidden easter egg.
As far as bugs go, this isn’t really all that problematic. It requires access to an iPhone to pull off, and doesn’t actually do any permanent damage. Although waiting for the iPhone battery to completely drain could take a couple of weeks if the phone was at full charge.