Re: Year 2000 issues

Arjen Kamphuis (
Wed, 10 Sep 1997 20:32:51 +0200

Hagbard Celine wrote:
>The web is full of such conflicting reports. Are there any list members
>out there who can shed light on the problem (if it is a problem)?

It's a problem allright. Big one.

>For those unfamiliar, dates are an important part of the software
>systems utilized by both government and industry. As far as I
>understand, the problem lies with the fact that most software developed
>during the past two decades for mainframes, client/server and personal
>computers recognizes years by only two digits ("96" for 1996) instead of
>four digits. When a date-senstive function requiring the year 2000
>("00") as operative input is performed, bad things *can* happen
>(crashes, silly results, inaccurate records, etc.)

This has already started.
A few months ago a large European distributer lost several million dollars
because their inventory system labeled product for destruction that had an
experation date 2000 or later (the system interpreted this as 1900 so the
product were several decades over-date). The labeled products were
automatically moved from the warehouse to a container bound for a
This company had received a letter warning them for this problem in 1988,
the management just sat on it and now they are implementing a new system
round-the-clock in 3 8-hour shifts. The company won't be making much profit
this year, or next year.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, many interesting things will happen in
the coming 2.3 years.

>The problem interests
>me insofar as we have less than three years to solve it. Enough time?

Recently a governement study in the UK showed there was a shortage of more
than 300.000 programmers (about 1 million man-years) to make all software
being used by companies in the country year 2K-compliant.

IBM has already sent all of it's customers a letter advising them to begin
a year 2K program *today* if have not started one already. They also stated
that they would be unable as of june this year to assist anyone in any way
because all available personell has been allocated until the end of 2001.
Several sofware companies are training newly-hired personell in programming
languages like COBOL (an outdated programminglanguage that was widely used
in the last 25 years or so). In spite of the high investment in
human-capital they expect to make a big profit when mission-critical
systems come crashing down.

A few years ago it correcting a progam cost about $1 per-line-of-code
(programs can be several million lines long), by now it's about $10. That
is if you can still find a capable programmer that has unallocated time
between now and 2000.

If you use custom-made programs that were written ten or more years ago,
check if they are year-2K compliant *now*. This deadline is solid!

Arjen Kamphuis | 'RAM-disk' | is NOT a repair instruction.