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posted by martyb on Friday January 10 2020, @05:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the Zombies-from-another-century dept.

Thought the Y2K bug was over and done with? Read the New Scientist article A lazy fix 20 years ago means the Y2K bug is taking down computers now and think again!

Parking meters, cash registers and a professional wrestling video game have fallen foul of a computer glitch related to the Y2K bug.

The Y2020 bug, which has taken many payment and computer systems offline, is a long-lingering side effect of attempts to fix the Y2K, or millennium bug.

Both stem from the way computers store dates. Many older systems express years using two numbers – 98, for instance, for 1998 – in an effort to save memory. The Y2K bug was a fear that computers would treat 00 as 1900, rather than 2000.

Programmers wanting to avoid the Y2K bug had two broad options: entirely rewrite their code, or adopt a quick fix called "windowing", which would treat all dates from 00 to 20, as from the 2000s, rather than the 1900s. An estimated 80 per cent of computers fixed in 1999 used the quicker, cheaper option.

"Windowing, even during Y2K, was the worst of all possible solutions because it kicked the problem down the road," says Dylan Mulvin at the London School of Economics.

I seem to remember that credit card companies instead kicked the can on to 2050.

-- hendrik

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  • (Score: 2) by sjames on Friday January 10 2020, @10:51AM (3 children)

    by sjames (2882) on Friday January 10 2020, @10:51AM (#941824) Journal

    The developers probably did exactly that. Then the technical debt was studiously ignored for 20 years because management whated whizz-bangs.

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10 2020, @03:58PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10 2020, @03:58PM (#941917)

    Here's the scenario that I see constantly that could have happened.

    Developer has tight deadline and has to choose a quick fix to something.
    Developer enters a bug into their bug system describing the right approach, with relevant details, risks, etc.
    Bug is placed into backlog to prioritize at a later time.
    Bug sits, and sits, and sits.
    A new manager/leadership comes in 2-3 years later, and sees a long backlog of bugs in the bug system.
    Manager deletes all bugs older than 6 months because "if it was important someone would fixed it, or someone would have escalated it by now. And if someone cares, they can ask we re-open it".
    No one notices the bugs have been closed, so the original developer's reminder to fix it the right way is lost.

    I can't count the number of times I've seen this done.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10 2020, @11:21PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10 2020, @11:21PM (#942076)

    One of my friends used to do that kind of work. He said that when the consulting firm he worked for had a tight deadline in the lead up to Y2K, their design of choice was to move the window to 1940-2039. Their thinking was that the 2038 bug would rear its head before then and require a proper rewrite anyway. For many systems, that took as they could convert the old data in batches or do quick hacks around dates in the future that have to have occurred in the past (e.g. DOD before DOB).