Less than two years until the year 2000. Two seemi Paper

This essay has a total of 2208 words and 8 pages.

Y2k














Less than two years until the year 2000. Two seemingly small digits may turn January 1,
2000 from a worldwide celebration into a universal nightmare. With computers mistaking the
year 2000 for 1900, virtually all businesses that use dates will be affected. Not only
will the companies be affected, but they are paying millions upon millions of dollars in
order for computers to recognize the difference between the years 2000 and 1900. The year
2000 computer bug is a huge problem that our world must face. In order to explain how to
solve the "millennium bug", it is a good idea to be informed about exactly what the year
2000 problem is. The year 2000 industry expert, Peter de Jager, described the problem
quite well. "We programmed computers to store the date in the following format: dd/mm/yy.
This only allows 2 digits for the year. January 1, 2000 would be stored as 01/01/00. But
the computer will interpret this as January 1, 1900- not 2000" (de Jager 1). The '19' is
"hard-coded" into computer hardware and software. Since there are only 2 physical spaces
for the year in this date format, after '99', the only logical choice is to reset the
number to '00'. The year 2000 problem is unlike any other problem in modern history for
several reasons. William Adams points out some of the most important ones. "Time is
running out- the Year 2000 is inevitable! The problem will occur simultaneously worldwide,
time zones withstanding. It affects all languages and platforms, hardware & software. The
demand for solutions will exceed the supply. Survivors will survive big, losers will lose
big. There is no 'silver bullet' that is going to fix things" (Adams 2). "It is too big
and too overwhelming even for [Bill Gates and] Microsoft" (Widder 3). Separate, any one of
these points makes Y2K, a common abbreviation for the year 2000 problem, an addition to
the obstacle. Combined, they form what seems more like a hideous monster than an
insignificant bug. The impact of Y2K on society is enormous, bringing the largest
companies in the world to their knees, pleading for a fix at nearly any cost. "The modern
world has come to depend on information as much as it has on electricity and running
water. Fixing the problem is difficult because there are [less than] two years left to
correct 40 years of behavior" (de Jager 1). Alan Greenspan has warned that being 99
percent ready isn't enough (Widder 2). Chief Economist Edward Yardeni has said that the
chances for a worldwide recession to occur because of Y2K are at 40% (Widder 3). Senator
Bob Benett (Republican, Utah) made a good analogy about the potential of the problem. "In
the 1970's, oil was the energy that ran our world economy. Today it runs on the energy of
information." He later said, "To cripple the technological flow of information throughout
the world is to bring it to a virtual standstill" (Widder 3). The potential of the problem
in everyday life is alarming. Imagine making a loan payment in 1999 for a bill that is due
in 2000. The company's computers could interpret the '00' as 1900 and you would then be
charged with 99 years of late fees (Moffitt & Sandler 48). If the year 2000 problem isn't
solved, there could be "no air traffic, traffic lights, no lights in your company,
companies could not produce goods, no goods delivered to the stores, stores could not send
you bills, you could not send bills to anyone else. Business [could] come to a halt" (de
Jager 1). The costs of fixing Y2K are staggering. The Gartner Group estimates that costs
per line of code to be between $1.50 and $2.00 (Conner 1). It is not uncommon for a single
company to have 100,000,000 lines of code (de Jager 6). Capers Jones, an expert who has
studied software costs for over ten years, estimates total worldwide costs to be
$1,635,000,000,000 (One-trillion, 635 billion dollars) (Jones 58). To put this number into
perspective, if five people were to spend $100 for every second of every day, 24 hours a
day, 365 days a year, it would take them about 100 years to finish the task! The year 2000
problem is not only limited to what happens with computers between December 31, 1999 and
January 1, 2000. There are several other important dates that are a factor. Last October
was considered the last point where a large company could start fixing the problem with
any hopes to finish before the deadline (DBA 1). Also, all fixes should be done by January
1, 1999. There are two major reasons for having the fixes done a year early. The first is
that there are many "special dates" during 1999 that mean special things. For example,
September 9, 1999 (09/09/99) has been commonly used as the "expiration date" for
references and data that have no expiration date (Reid 6). The computer required that a
date must be entered in, and in many cases, 9/9/99 was it. Also, it has been established
that an entire year's cycle of events should be used to test all of the modifications that
have been made to a system. Also, one should be sure to test to see which day of the week
is 01/01/00. January 1, 1900 was a Monday, but January 1, 2000 will be a Saturday. Other
possible failure dates: 1/10/2000 (1st 9 character date), 2/29/2000 (Leap day- the year
2000 is a leap year), 10/10/2000 (1st 10 character date), and 12-31-2000 (Day 366 of the
year 2000) (Martin 15) (GTE Appendix A). With the millennium "bug" coming closer and
closer to destroying the "crops" of the world's information every day, experts from around
the globe have discovered several ways to deal with or "exterminate" this menace. Five
major solutions to the problem will now be discussed. The most straightforward approach to
solving Y2K is to simply change the 2-digit date fields to 4-digit ones. This is
considered to be the only complete solution to the problem, giving businesses a seemingly
endless range of dates for the future. This approach also can make it much easier for the
company to reformat the display screens with a hard-coded format present (IBM 5.2).
Unfortunately, expanding the date field from 2 to 4 digits has several downsides to it.
The most obvious one is that in order to convert the dates, every program and database
that references to date data will have to be modified. These modifications are mostly
manual labor- not an automatic process. Also, this requires display screens to be
reformatted manually, as well as increasing record lengths in databases (IBM 5.2). Another
common method for swatting the millennium bug involves what is termed "date logic", or
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