Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Is the `Millennium Bug' a Bug after All?

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Is the `Millennium Bug' a Bug after All?

Article excerpt

One of the current hot and hyped topics in the news is what is being termed "the millennium bug" by many journalists. The issue at hand has also been given names like "the year 2000 problem" and it deals with the issues raised by the way computers deal with dates.

Back in the old days when computer memory and storage space were expensive and programmers actually wrote tight code to make the most of scant system resources, it was common practice to store date information with only two digits. Thus the year 1965, which is when I was born, was represented as 65 and the century part of the date or the 19 was assumed by the system. It made pretty good sense to do this because it saved on storage space and made the programs run faster and more efficiently. That is to say it made pretty good sense until someone finally realized that we are soon coming to a date in time that these computer systems are going to incorrectly assume is 1900 instead of 2000 because they are only storing the last two digits of the date and assuming the rest.

I could at this point retell the adage about what happens when you assume, but I am certain you have already heard it and this is after all, a family forum. The problem is actually already rearing its ugly head for some folks that use credit cards. A friend of mine recently received his new card in the mail with an expiration date of 2000. Problem was he couldn't use it because every time he attempted to make a purchase, the bank computers incorrectly assumed that the card had expired 97 years ago. So you are beginning to grasp the challenge we are about to face in the computing community as the change of the millenium comes about. Understanding the problem is one thing -- correcting it is entirely another issue. The companies that are most affected by this issue are financial institutions, stock traders, government offices and anyone who must deal with dates accurately. Many of these companies have software that was originally designed in the 1960s (and you wondered why there was still a demand for COBOL programmers) and as these applications have been modified over the years they have grown to multimillion line behemoths that must now be meticulously examined and changed so they can understand the difference between 1900 and 2000. …

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