How to convert a Unix datetime to a SAS datetime

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timeI watched with wonder as each of my daughters learned how to "tell time." Early in their primary school careers, they brought home worksheets that featured clock faces with big-hand/little-hand configurations that they had to decipher, and exercises that asked them to draw the hands as they should appear given a specific elapsed time. Now my daughters have digital watches, and have even adopted my habit of wearing them with the face on the underside of the wrist and setting the display to 24-hour time -- which serves to confound their friends.

But, to my disappointment, their school has failed to teach my daughters how to read a SAS datetime value, or even the more ubiquitous Unix (POSIX) datetime value. As a parent of the 21st century, I feel it is my duty to fill this gap in their education.

First, let's review how these datetime values are represented:

  • A SAS datetime value is the number of seconds that have elapsed since midnight of January 1, 1960 (01JAN1960:00:00:00).
  • A Unix (or POSIX) datetime value is the number of seconds* that have elapsed since midnight of January 1, 1970 (01JAN1970:00:00:00).

Conversion from Unix to SAS representation is simple math:

/* Number of seconds between 01JAN1960 and 01JAN1970: 315619200 */
sasDT = unixDT + 315619200;

Having trouble remembering that 9-digit constant? Then you can get SAS to infer that part for you and use the dhms() function:

/* DHMS function calculates datetime when you provide values for */
/*    date, hour, minute, and seconds                            */
/* In this case, "seconds" is a very high value!                 */
sasDT = dhms('01jan1970'd, 0, 0, unixDT);

Raw Unix times are often expressed as UTC, and you might prefer to show local times in your SAS reporting. That's a simple calculation with the (undocumented) gmtoff() function:

/* Convert from UTC to local time using GMTOFF */
sasDT = dhms('01jan1970'd,0,0, unixDT + gmtoff());

Update: Bruno told me that TZONEOFF is an official SAS function in SAS 9.4! See the comments for more details how you can use it instead of GMTOFF.

I have one more variation that I use every day. I have a project that reports against a database that stores transaction times in milliseconds instead of seconds. (This uses the database's intrinsic int8 or BIGINT type.) SAS datetime values can represent fractions of seconds, so this conversion simply requires that I divide by 1000. I can use a different SAS datetime format to see the precision (if that's what I want, though it's usually not).

/* for more precision */
format sasDT datetime22.3; 
/* mlliseconds from transaction database */
unixDTms = 1429193343362;
sasDT_ms = dhms('01jan1970'd,0,0, unixDTms/1000);
/* result: 16APR2015:14:09:03.362 */

Here's a complete program that you can experiment with:

data t;
  format sasDT_const 
    sasDT_dhms 
    sasDT_local datetime20.;
 
  /* for more precision */
  format sasDT_ms datetime22.3;
 
  /* Unix test datetime of 16APR2015:14:09:03 UTC */
  unixDT =   1429193343;
 
  /* mlliseconds from transaction database */
  unixDTms = 1429193343362;
 
  /* Number of seconds between 01JAN1960 and 01JAN1970: 315619200 */
  sasDT_const = unixDT + 315619200;
 
  /* DHMS function calculates datetime given values for */
  /*    date, hour, minute, and seconds                 */
  /* In this case, "seconds" is a very high value!      */
  sasDT_dhms = dhms('01jan1970'd,0,0,unixDT);
 
  /* converting a value from milliseconds */
  sasDT_ms = dhms('01jan1970'd,0,0,unixDTms/1000);
 
  /* Convert from UTC to local time using GMTOFF */
  /* use TZONEOFF function in 9.4! */
  sasDT_local = dhms('01jan1970'd,0,0,unixDT + gmtoff()); 
run;

Sample output from this program (which I ran from my EDT timezone):
time_out
* I intentionally avoided any discussion of leap seconds that go along with UTC, but you can learn more about that here.

See also

Read a Microsoft datetime value into a SAS datetime value

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Chris Hemedinger

Senior Manager, SAS Online Communities

+Chris Hemedinger is the manager of SAS Online Communities. Since 1993, Chris has worked for SAS as an author, a software developer, an R&D manager and a consultant. Inexplicably, Chris is still coasting on the limited fame he earned as an author of SAS For Dummies.  He also hosts the SAS Tech Talk webcasts each year from SAS Global Forum, connecting viewers with smart people from SAS R&D and the impressive work that they do.

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4 Comments

  1. Andrew Howell on

    Hey Chris,

    I'm a big INTNX() fan - this also works: SAS_DT=intnx("DTYEAR",Unix_DT,10,"S");

    Cheers,
    Andrew.

    • Chris Hemedinger
      Chris Hemedinger on

      INTNX (a function that increments date/datetime values by a given timespan) is a SAS workhorse that is hugely popular. Thanks for sharing!

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