Y2K (Year 2000) Real or Hoax?
The Year 2000 (also known as Y2K) problem has occurred due to the way computer programmers and hardware engineers designed software (computer programs) and hardware. Until in the last few years memory and storage space was very limited and costly. In order to save space only the last two digits of the year were used on year data that pertained to the twentieth century. In a file of thousands of records this could save a significant space. We must also remember that Bill Gates said in 1981 that no one would ever need more than 640,000 bytes (characters) of memory. Typical new PCs today sell with at least 32,000,000 bytes of memory.
However this problem was not just recognized. Programmers have known since the 1970s that this problem would occur in the year 2000. The assumptions always were that the software being written had a life cycle of five years and that new software written in the 1990s would be Year 2000 compliant.
The problem is that the software life cycle turns out to be longer than five years. Many companies continue to use computers that are 10-15 years old and software that was written in the 1970s and 1980s.
What is the Year 2000 problem? Since dates were only entered as two digits, when the year 2000 arrives, the year will be seen as 00 in the computer. The problem occurs when we do calculations using the year. Assume you were born in 1960. The year may be stored as 60 in the computer. In 1998 we would calculate your age by subtracting your birth year (60) from the current year (98) and we get your age is 38. However in 2000 when we subtract your birth year (60) from the current year (00) we get an age of -40. Obviously this is wrong. This can cause problems in calculating interest, retirement benefits, insurance premiums, maintenance schedules for equipment, etc.
Fears abound. People are hearing rumors that the world will end on January 1, 2000. Some are predicting chaos and riots in the cities then. Reports are that everything will fail that has computter chips in it. Some have said everything from coffee makers to traffic lights to elevators to all our financial systems will fail. Some are saying no one knows how to fix this Year 2000 bug. I have had various people ask me these questions and seen it also said in the public media.
I am hearing reports of people beginning to stockpile food, water, fuel and guns and heading for rural mountain areas in fear of January 1, 2000. I am sure plenty are stockpiling food and forming militias, but I suspect in most cases you will find they are the right wing groups already doing that because they think the government has too much control. The other groups of them are the prophesy fanactics who are claiming the world will end. I have heard that Revelation says Jesus will appear that day, the Celtic Druids supposedly predicted end of world in October 2000, and the pyramid builders supposedly predicted end of world in July 2000. Jesus told us in the Bible that no man knows the time of his return, that only his Father knows that. Now why you would stockpile and head for the mountains for the end of the world baffles me. If it is the end of the world, why do you need the stockpile? Also as we get closer to 2000 I am sure we will see more crazies come out of the woodwork. I think the group in San Diego who thought they caught the Hale Bopp comet are just the beginning. Others thinking their savior is coming or the end is here will do some dramatic suicides.
I fully expect we will see some wild partying on 12/31/1999, and some problems over the next few weeks which will aggravate us such as ATMs not working, traffic lights on wrong cycles, elevators demanding maintenace, etc. but mostly that it will go smoothly. I think basically the power industry will be in good shape except for some localized problems, and I hope the hospitals get the dates on their controllers fixed, so they don't shut down for maintenance and endanger some lives.
There are solutions out there and many are working on them, including some receiving this article. In some cases Y2K has been way out of proportion and in other cases it is way underestimated. Some organizations and individuals have been preparing for thsi problem for years. I will continue in the next article (#3) on what we need to do and the long term implications
This is a little article I am doing across the Internet. I plan to write several times a week on a variety of subjects. It may be religious at times, political at times, and at other times just my reactions on something happening out there. It will often be like an op-ed article. If I do what I intend, you will at times want to shout I agree, other times you will want to say Dwight has really lost it now, but most importantly I want to challenge you to think. Feel free to forward this to others. If you don't want to get this e-mail let me know. Feel free to use what you read from me, but I request you give me credit and send a tear sheet if it is printed. Thanks.
If you would like to receive this series and you are not on my mailing list, send me a note to add you. You can find past issues on my home page at http://home.att.net/~dwight-watt/articles/articles.html