Who is the 100000th 'Cernois'?

The Administrative Information Services (IT-AIS) group issued the 100000th CERN identity number on 20 June 2006... and fears of a bug proved unfounded

Is he Italian, Swiss or French? His identity will have to remain a mystery but, wherever he's from, he was assigned CERN ID number 100000 on 20 June. He is not yet aware of the fact as he won't receive his ID number until he arrives at CERN next year.

But is he really the 100000th 'Cernois'? This is not completely certain because the system of CERN ID numbers was only set up at the end of the 1960s and, although attempts were made to allocate numbers retroactively, it seems very likely that at least a few people slipped through the net.

Today, the CERN ID system is based on a single database. 'When the database was set up in 1995, no fewer than 11 different databases had to be merged together', explains Franç ois Briard, Leader of the HR section of the IT-AIS group. Today, it contains around 182000 people, and on average another 1000 are added to it every month, half of whom are given a CERN identity number (see box).

This rationalisation process meant that the same information no longer had to be entered several times. Today, data is pre-stored at the earliest possible opportunity: for example, a candidate for a CERN vacancy enters his personal data at the time of application, allowing any errors to be detected as soon as possible. The information is then checked by the specialist services (Human Resources, Registration Service, Users Office, etc.) to make sure, among other things, that the person concerned is not already in the database. 'What we are most afraid of is the same person being entered in the system more than once?, says François Briard. This kind of duplication can be difficult to detect if the name of the person concerned has changed. Finally, once all the checks have been made, a new ID can be created with a simple click of the mouse.

Fears of the 100 000 bug have proven unfounded

For the last year, the IT-AIS group had been anticipating the 100000th ID number with some trepidation, akin to fears about the Y2K bug at the turn of the millennium, as the addition of an extra digit in the various programs and databases could have brought some nasty surprises. Moreover, the ID number is the key to the door to numerous CERN services as many systems refer to the database. They need not have worried, however, as everything went without a hitch. Could the allocation of the millionth CERN ID number be the occasion for a bug to occur? It's always possible but, at the present rate of arrivals, it won't be for another 150 years!

Did you know?

The CERN identity number (CERN ID) is not to be confused with the number on the CERN access card (Card Number). Since 2001, many CERN cards have been issued to people without a CERN ID (conference speakers, visitors, members of clubs run by the Staff Association, parents taking their children to the nursery school, etc.). The Card Number used to be the same as the CERN ID number in the majority of cases, but this has no longer been the case for some time. The CERN ID number, where it exists, will be reproduced on a new generation of cards soon to be introduced. The CERN database comprises some 182000 people, over 100000 of whom have a CERN ID.