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Y2K Hoax: A Simple Explanation


Millennium Bug is a misnomer


Millennium ...

The Year 2000 is not the start of the next millennium. Even if it was, this date-field issue has nothing to do with thousand year cycles. If computers existed in 1899, we'd have called it The Year 1900 Problem.


... Bug

A bug is an unforeseen blip in software and other development. Microsnot is the world leader in this. The Year 2000 issue is just that -- an issue, not a bug.


What it is

Decades ago, well-dressed computer programmers collectively and individually decided not to include the unnecessary "19" century digits before every year date. By doing so, this saved a some valuable, expensive, and rare memory space (back then). But it was also borne of laziness. Even with a two digit year, it takes six bytes to store a date in ASCII or three to store it in packed BCD. If the programmers back then were really interested in saving space, they should have stored the date in a two byte binary field. This would have saved 1 to 4 bytes of space and it would have simplified date calculations. If programmers had done this since the infancy of computers, date fields would work past the year 2100. In any event, they did not have the foresight to do this.

On New Year's Eve 1999, when we flip from 31/12/99 to 01/01/00, many computers won't know what Year 00 is and will assume either it's 1900 or nil-input.

This is an important issue that must be examined. Any company, organization, or government that doesn't take the time to look at how their systems will operate in the Year 00 is inviting some problems.

But ... most companies, organizations, and governments are doing or have already done so. The only reason to panic or worry would be if no one was doing anything about it. The issue does indeed exist; it's just not as gigantic a problem as it has been inflated to be.

If you did nothing to check your business computers, you may have had some trouble on Saturday morning, January 1, 2000. If you own or run a company and any of your Computer People mumble, "I don't know if we can fix the millennium bug," fire them today. This issue was one of the simplest computer problems they'll ever encounter in their careers.

Computer programmers create actual, brilliant programs out of mere ideas in their heads. For them to go through millions of lines of old code (many armed with rapid, automated testing tools) to find every date-field is child's play, not to mention damn dull.

Oh-oh! -- don't forget about the million/billion/zillion embedded chips and embedded systems. These cannot be re-programmed or upgraded. These are molded into solid cement and are unchangeable. You cannot get out of bed without them. Examine how many are actually date-aware... You'll find that most aren't.

Planes did not fall out of the sky, elevators did not drop, governments did not collapse. The Year 2000 arrived with a yawn.

Send e-mail If you don't believe me, click on this mushroom cloud graphic to read the worst case scenario from a guy named Gary North. After preaching mass destruction and economic chaos, he admits at the end of the article: "I'm not a programmer. My Ph.D. is in history. I take the historian's view: things are interconnected in ways we can barely understand." It's a very entertaining article. Gary describes it as, "ideal for introducing the problem to wives, in-laws, and other skeptics."

After reading the article, click on this thumb-down graphic to read the thoughts of a guy who explains why Gary wants there to be big problems on 01/01/00.
Here's another guy who'll never have Gary as a drinking buddy. This site has a very rude, yet hilarious, title. Have a peek.


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