Year 2000 Bug

Less than one year 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 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 1997). 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. Many computer professionals point
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. "It is too big and too
overwhelming even for [Bill Gates and] Microsoft" (Widder 1997). 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 1997). "Alan Greenspan has warned that being

99 percent ready isn\'t enough" (Widder 1997). "Chief Economist Edward

Yardeni has said that the chances for a worldwide recession to occur because of

Y2K are at 40%" (Widder 1997). 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

1997). 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 companyís computers
could interpret the \'00\' as 1900 and you would then be charged with 99 years of
late fees (Moffitt & Sandler 1997). 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 1997). 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 1997). 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 1997). 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! The year 2000 problem is not only limited to what happens
with computers between December 31, 1999 and January 1, 2000. There are several
other important dates that are a factor. Last year was considered the last point
where a large company could start fixing the problem with any hopes to finish
before the deadline. Also, all fixes should be done by January 1, 1999. There
are two major reasons for having the fixes done a year early.