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Frequently Asked Questions
Y2K / Millenium Bug

Q: What is this Y2K / Millenium bug all about?
A: The Y2K bug stands for Year 2000 (notice the k?) bug also known as the Millenium bug which can cost huge chaos is the computer world by altering the date.It all started nearly 30 years ago when computers were introduced. Programmers used 2 digits to record dates. The year "1987" would be recorded as "87" etc. All was well and the Y2K bug wasn't noticed until the '90s when the first alarm was started. By then, all computers were still using 2 digits to record years. Now the problem is when computers reach the year 2000, the date of the year will be reset to "00".

Q: So what's the main problem here?
A: You see, on midnight 31st December 1999, the digits of the year will change from "99" (19'99') to "00" (20'00'). To us it we are advancing one year. But to the computer, it is going back 99 year! So if a man is born on 1980, instead of being 20 years old on year 2000, the computer will interpret it as -80 years old!

Q: Why should this cause a problem?
A: Basically, computers can't be bothered with your age.....unless it is used in a bank or finance. Think about it - interest, due dates, delinquent accounts, bonuses, commissions, mortgages, bills, loans, stocks all depends on dates. If you owe the back 2 months of payments, by year 2000, it will seem like the bank owes you 99 years and 10 months instead! 

Q: How does this concerns software?
A: Software uses dates to compare files. If you have a file created on December 1999 and a file created on January 2000, a computer will think that the one created on January 2000 is older because of the digits (00). This can cause and newer file to be replaced by an older one. Also, a file with a wrongly stamped date can cause chaos as file may be reported with "invalid date".

Q: Why not just change the date?
A: Everybody thought this is just a trivial matter until they realize that they have to change every reference to a date, in every program and file in use, archived, and stored. You can't just "squeeze" some extra code into the original program source code. Lots of software company have to re-write their programs to be Year 2000 compatible.

Q: Why the early programmers never bothered about 2 digit dates?
A: Simple, because they never ever thought about it! Computers 30 to 40 years ago are rare, bulky and gives a very low bandwidth. Which programmer would ponder that, "Hmm... maybe this 2 digit year dates might cause turmoil some 40 years later?" Instead, they were trying to get more for less. Using 2 digits instead of 4 is a cost-saving procedure to lower memory usage. Between the two, there is a huge difference is memory consumption.

Q: Does the Y2K applies to computers only?
A: Strangely, the Y2K bug "bites" not just on computers. VCRs, air conditioners, digital watches, cameras and every other date-recording appliances will be affected by Y2K. But it won't cause much harm since you will still know the difference between the years unless, of course you are differentiating 2 photos date 1999 and 2999 :-)


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