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The animated counter systematically cycles through every possible combination of the letters of the alphabet plus a space, one second at a time. Every word, name and phrase in every language using the Roman alphabet will eventually be displayed for one second. Each time a character-position cycles back to 'A', the character to its right is incremented. The leftmost character changes every second, the one next to it changes every 27 seconds, the following one every 729 (27 x 27) seconds (or 12 minutes and 9 seconds), the next one every 5 hours, 28 minutes, and 3 seconds, etc. If the rightmost character cycles all the way through, another character position is added to the end of the display, just as the two-digit number 99 becomes the three-digit number 100 when two digits are no longer sufficient.
At the time of writing the counter is displaying thirteen characters. When all of the possible permutations of thirteen characters have been exhausted (119 billion years from now), it will add a fourteenth character. Following this logic backwards leads to the conclusion that the counter had a definite beginning in which a single "A" was displayed for one second, then a "B", and then a "C". Calculating this origin leads to midnight on January 1st, 13.7 billion years prior to the year 2000, which coincides with some scientific hypotheses about the age of the universe.
Visitors to the site are able to search for significant words and to relate these to, quite likely, unremarkable moments in the history of the universe, represented in the notation of the currently used Gregorian calendar. Conversely, they can enter significant dates and times and see their corresponding textual forms.
|Idea and execution: Paul Robert
Support, advice, technical help: Stephen Kelly, Gary Hanrahan, The Centre for Art Tapes: Ilan Sandler, Mireille Bourgeois