At one number per second — with no breaks, at all, for any reason — it would take 11 days, 13 hours, 46 minutes, and 40 seconds to count from one to 1,000,000. You could probably do the first few hundred at a quicker pace but any gains made up would be eventually lost — it takes at least a second to say aloud, for example, the number 429,627. (“Four hundred twenty-nine thousand, six hundred and twenty-seven” is a mouthful.) And over the course of your 11-plus days, you’ll certainly have to eat, sleep, use the restroom, etc. In other words: that one number per second benchmark isn’t all that realistic.
So, how long would it really take to count to a million? Out loud, for good measure?
Thanks to a guy named Jeremy Harper, we don’t have to guess. In fact: we got to watch.
In June of 2007, the Internet was still in a somewhat nascent stage. Weird things being streamed, live, had a good chance of getting a lot of attention. (In some sense, that’s still true.) Harper decided to put that to the test, and at the time, raise money for a small non-profit which helped people with disabilities. Harper’s very simple stunt: he was going to count to a million and let anyone and everyone watch along the way. He assumed it would take him the rest of the summer and, as he told a local Fox affiliate, “probably the beginning of football season, too.” His boss approved a leave of absence from his job.
Just moments after noon on June 18th, he got started. Harper locked himself in his Birmingham, Alabama apartment, turned on the webcams, and got to work. He started with the number 1, then 2, then 3, and… well, you get the idea. Taking prolonged breaks only to eat and sleep — he often even counted while on the can, albeit with the door closed — Harper got about 16 hours of counting in each day. The cameras never stopped streaming as he endeavored to reach seven digits — he even had a camera trained on his bed, allowing fans, well-wishers, and the unabashedly curious the chance to watch him as he slept. (No, he didn’t count in his sleep.) Along the way, Harper encouraged viewers to donate via his now-defunct website, MillionCount.com.
And 89 days later — at 7:25 in the evening on September 14, 2007 — he reached his goal. One million.
You can watch the final moments here, starting at 999,976 and ending at, of course, 1,000,000. And then he celebrated — by doing the chicken dance.
(The Internet is a weird place.)
Oh, Harper raised more than $10,000 for the non-profit — about a penny per number counted, but not bad for about three months of work.
From the Archives: A Million Years, Give or Take: The New York Times makes an estimation as to when humans will be able to take to the skies — and misses by a lot.
Related: A book of one million random digits. The book has more than 650 reviews, almost all of them jokes. According to Amazon, one of the most often products purchased by people after checking out the book is an $11 yodeling pickle.