Y10K, & "Who needs the Gregorian calendar, anyway?"

From: M. E. Smith (mesmith@rocketmail.com)
Date: Mon Apr 10 2000 - 09:40:46 MDT

Over several weeks ago, someone on this list made
comments to the effect that the "Y2K Problem" was a
unique event never to be repeated. The reasoning was
that, since storage space is now plentiful and
databases routinely are able to store dates in formats
that support the far, far, far future (I can't
remember the details, but we were talking an
"astronomical" number of years from now), there will
never again be a calendar event that threatens to
break a significant fraction of computer programs.

I believe an implication of the post I refer to was
that there will be no "Y10K" problem, for example.

Since then, I have been sensitive to code which is an
exception to this. That is, every time I see code that
would fail in Y10K, I notice it.

And I have noticed code like this an awful lot. For
example, in Web development, it is common to pass data
to servers as parameters at the end of URL's. When
passing dates in URL's, the habit I see is to use a
four-digit year. When I suggest that a five-digit year
be used ("just for grins", I say), people just roll
their eyes at me. (People do that a lot.)

Eight thousand years is a long time to fix these
things, and it seems unlikely that there will even be
URL's as we now know them in 9999 C.E., so I realize
this is a mainly nitpicking, but it is NOT the case
that just because we have plenty of storage space and
super-duper date fields in databases, there will
therefore be nothing like Y10K problem. (I say
"nothing like" because I accept the probability that
the "Gregorian calendar" will not be used for another
8000 years.*) All it requires is "shortsightedness",
which probably will never go away entirely.

Also, isn't there some kind of limit on the internal
Unix clock format? I remember hearing somewhere that
it only goes to something like 2038. If so, that seems
like a problem, although probably not a big one (I bet
the OS could be upgraded without having to change
application code).

-- M. Smith

* Once, after being forced to write code for the
umpteenth time to determine the number of days in a
given month, I ALMOST included a joke comment to the
effect that all months should have 28 days (4 weeks
exactly) to make programming easier, and TO HELL with
the phases of the moon and the rotation of the Earth!
So what if it meant your birthday would be in a
different season every three years? Don't farmers have
almanacs? Are there not more programmers now than
farmers? Do not the needs of the many outweigh the
needs of the few?

Actually, if there were 13 months of 28 days each,
that makes 364 days a year. It would take almost a
century for your birthday to change seasons. Isn't
that close enough? And the 13th month could be named
"Smithember", because I thought of it! Yeah! And all
you people who were born on the 29th, 30th, or 31st
would just be out of luck, no birthdays for you...

See! You're rolling your eyes!

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M. E. Smith
** *** ***** ******* ***********

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