Year 2000 Computer Problem (Y2K Bug)

Less than two years 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 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 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 2000 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" (de Jager 1). The '19' is
"hard-coded" into computer hardware and software. Since there are only
2 physical spaces for the year in this date format, after '99', the
only logical choice is to reset the number to '00'.

The year 2000 problem is unlike any other problem in modern
history for several reasons. William Adams 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, losers will lose big. There is no 'silver bullet' that is going
to fix things" (Adams 2). "It is too big and too overwhelming even for
[Bill Gates and] Microsoft" (Widder 3). Separate, any one of these
points makes Y2K, a common abbreviation for the year 2000 problem, an
addition to the 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 fix 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 are [less than] two years left to correct 40
years of behavior" (de Jager 1). Alan Greenspan has warned that being
99 percent ready isn't enough (Widder 2). Chief Economist Edward
Yardeni has said that the chances for a worldwide recession to occur
because of Y2K are at 40% (Widder 3). Senator Bob Benett (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" (Widder 3).

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 (Moffitt & Sandler 48). If
the year 2000 problem isn't solved, there could be "no air traffic,
traffic lights, no lights in your company, companies could not produce
goods, no goods delivered to the stores, stores could not send you
bills, you could not send bills to anyone else. Business [could] come
to a halt" (de Jager 1).

The costs of fixing Y2K are staggering. The Gartner Group
estimates that costs per line of code to be between $1.50 and $2.00
(Conner 1). It is not uncommon for a single company to have
100,000,000 lines of code (de Jager 6). Capers Jones, an expert who
has studied software costs for over ten years, estimates total
worldwide costs to be $1,635,000,000,000 (One-trillion, 635 billion
dollars) (Jones 58). To put this number into perspective, if five
people were to spend $100 for every second of every day, 24 hours a
day, 365 days a year, it would take them about 100 years to finish the
task!

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