We call it Y2K around here (or . . . that's where the socks go!)

We call it Y2K around here (or . . . that's where the socks go!)

Well, to be honest we don't call the year 2000 problem "Y2K" around the ARN offices. We don't call it the Millennium Bug either, and we don't run horror stories about it every second issue, so that presumably puts us out of step with a lot of other publications.

We ran a lengthy feature on the subject a few issues ago and we were pleased to receive positive feedback from readers. Of course we didn't think we were introducing you to the subject for the first time, but it did crystallise some of the current thinking about how it should be approached, and what other people are doing about it.

Unfortunately it's also one of the most over-talked-about subjects in the popular and business press today. We now have government ministers preaching (in religious fervour) about this demon, and it probably won't be long before the kids' TV cartoons feature it. "This week see Superman battle Lex Luthor and his Millennium Bug."

Few people doubt that there really is a problem built into most existing computer systems that use dates. After all, a two-digit date field made sense - who was thinking far enough ahead to cater for the year 2000 and beyond? And there's also no doubt that some people are going to get caught when their system hits a problem. But that almost certainly won't be at one second after midnight on January 1, 2000, like a huge timebomb. A high proportion of systems have struck the problem already, trying to handle anything that covers the next few years, like memberships or forward bookings.

One approach to the problem that many resellers and consultants tell us is working well is the clean sweep. They encourage customers to take advantage of this time to move up to new software. So, for instance, if the system in question is an old, custom written payroll or accounting system, rather than charge the customer $50,000 to check, modify and test the system, replace it with brand new software and transfer the existing data, all for around the same price. Not only is the problem solved, but the customer has vastly better software to boot.

Domestic woes too?

PS: Did anyone else hear what I heard when ABC TV's Lateline program covered this subject recently? They said that in the early days of computers, memory was at such a premium that two-digit year codes were all that could be used. In fact, if the Apollo moon missions had used 4-digit year codes, the computers, and therefore the spacecraft, would have been too heavy to launch into orbit. Hoo hah!

Oh, and don't try to wash any clothes on that critical eve, lest the microprocessor in the washing machine get confused and send your socks back to the year 1900!

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