Here's part of the confusion:
If you were to express the number of microseconds since 1970 in a
decimal number, it would indeed take 16 digits.
But uniqid() returns a /13 character string/, not a 13 digit number. The
string is actually a hexadecimal number (and thus can express a greater
range of values than a decimal number within those 13 characters).
Ahh! The moment when the penny drops. I was looking at the result as a
number, not a string.
Solution to problem = use uniqid()
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