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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: 4, Interesting) by DannyB on Friday January 10 2020, @04:07PM

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday January 10 2020, @04:07PM (#941922) Journal

    Back in the day (early 1980s), I worked on a number of programs written in the UCSD p-System. At that time, we scoffed at the idea that these programs would be around anywhere near the turn of the millennium.

    The cool thing about the p-System was that our code could run on multiple systems -- and this was in the mid 1980's! Apple III, and IBM PC were the primary ones. Aside: we dabbled with Corvus Concept since our software worked with the semaphore locking mechanism of Corvus hard drives to have concurrent access and modification of database records and b-tree indexes. And this is back when we had to write our own database, there wasn't any multi-user databases for microcomputers -- let alone cross platform. So I was not only an application developer, but a database, and framework developer as well.

    As IBM PC began to dominate, we discovered this software from a Canadian company called the Datalex Bubble. It packaged a p-System program as a DOS executable. Very cool. And we built our own solution to run on Macintosh in "text mode" by creating our own "terminal emulator".

    So this software continues to evolve into the 1990's. Now Y2K is around the corner.

    It turns out that dates in the p-System take up 2 bytes. 7 bits are allocated for the year. So years could be from 0 to 127. But users could only type in 2 digit years. So our single date input routine in our standard library was modified to treat years 00 to 27 as being stored as a "year" of 100 to 127 in that 7 bit range. So even date subtraction (days between 2 dates, etc) and other date arithmetic would work. (eg, date plus/minus number of days to get another date)

    Thankfully by the early 2000s, all of these ancient text mode programs had been fully converted to GUI programs across our entire customer base. But some of them hang on to the text mode versions as long as we would let them. Now everything is going to web based SaaS. We did offer the server as an installable product at the customer's premises on customer's equipment. But only a tiny handful wanted that option so we discontinued it. They all seem to prefer it "in the cloud".

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