It is less than nine months 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 also 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 businesses and 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 200 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" (Jager, 12). The "19" is hard-coded into most computer hardware and software. The 4-digit's 2000 are not even an option in most computers. Therefore, there are only 2 physical spaces available for the year in this format. After "99" the only logical choice is to reset the number to "00". So, the computer automatically resets to the year 1900 instead of the year 2000
The year 2000 problem is unlike any other problem in modern history for many reasons. Leon Kappelman 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, and losers will lose big. There is no 'silver bullet' that is going to fix things" (Kappelman, 55). A silver bullet is any software product or other technique that can automatically solve all code repair problems, in all 600 mainframe languages. There can be no silver bullet. On this point, all Y2K programmers are agreed. They agree on little else. It is too big and too overwhelming even for Bill Gates and Microsoft. The millennium bug has the potential to be the biggest disaster in history. Separate, anyone of these points makes Y2K an 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 solution 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 is less than one year left to correct 40 years of behavior" (Jager, 21). Being 99 percent ready isn't enough. Chief Economist Edward Yardeni has said that the chances for a worldwide recession to occur because of Y2K are at 40%. Senator Bob Bennett (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." (Hoffman, 1)
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. "It's possible to be making a phone call on New Year's Eve, then talk past midnight and receive a bill for 99 years" (Miller, 3). If the year 2000 problem isn't solved, there could be no air traffic, traffic lights and no lights in your company. Companies could possibly not even produce goods. Products could not be delivered to the stores. Some stores couldn't even send out bills. Your checks might not be cashed. Business could come to a halt.
The costs of fixing Y2K are staggering. Professionals estimate costs per line of code to be between $1.50- $2.00. It is not uncommon for a single company to have 100 million lines of