Y 2 K Bug People may not be celebrating the turn of the New Year come the Year 2000 due to the Millennium Bug. This bug has become the biggest problem facing governments, businesses, and other organizations who depend on computers (Hestnes, 1997). Many questions underlie the Y 2 K bug problem. These questions include what is the problem, what caused the problem, what types of systems will be affected, can the problem be fixed, what can the people do to prepare, what is the estimated cost to fix the problem, and what is the current status worldwide.
The Year 2000 computer problem or the Y 2 K bug, as it is called, involves computers not recognizing the Year 2000 as valid information. The reason for this is because computer programs store the date in only two digits. For example 1998 is stored as 98 and the Year 2000 being stored as 00. This means that a computer will think that the Year 2000 occurred before the year 1999. Computers will read 2000 as 1900, which will cause them not to process date information correctly. The problem affects computer applications and operating systems computer hardware, as well as, many other systems that use computer technology (Tippins, 1998).
The cause of the problem dates back to the 1960's when computers were at a premium. Memory and hard drive space was expensive, so in order to conserve space programmers shortened the date field to two digits. The reason for this is due to money. The cost of storing two bytes of extra data would have cost more than people were willing to pay. Due to this creation millions of programs, computers and other systems will not function when it reads the date of 1/1/2000 (Tippins, 1998).
The types of systems that will be affected due to the bug include everything that has been designed over the last 30 years and that has not yet been updated. The bug will affect many things that we use in our daily lives. Pacific Business News quotes Gary Caulfield as saying, Anything with a computer clock that drives a software program will be effected by this (Gillingham, 1996). Computer systems route electricity to our homes and control communication through means of televisions, radios, and phones. The ATM, which is a computer system, has been made convenient for people to use their bank accounts. The medical field uses computer systems to do various types of care for patients.
These are only a few examples of what will be affected by the Y 2 K bug (Tippins, 1998). The Y 2 K bug can be fixed, but not all systems will be fixed on time. In order to fix the problem manpower and time is needed (Tippins, 1998). Experts say, We re not ready, and there isn t enough skilled manpower to get ready on time (Roberts, 1998). There are not enough computer engineers to fix every system on time. A new tool has been developed that may help the government, banks and companies toward a solution.
The product is called Millennium Solution, by Data Integrity of Waltham, Mass. The solution searches for the math in a software program and is instructed to add 50 twice. This solution doesn t work in all systems, but its a start (Maney, 1998). Two other ways have been suggested in ways to program around the Y 2 K problem, rewrite the software so that the date uses the four-digit year or rewrite the software so that it assumes the dates prior to some date (Burke, 1998). To make the transition easier for everyone, people should call on their technical support or computer vendor to find out what their intentions are to fix the problem and find out if they will have software available to find and fix problems with their system.
If an individual plans on buying a computer, they should ask if it is compatible for the Year 2000 problem and find out what software and technical support is available in order to make the new system compatible. Also, individuals should make it a habit to use four digits for the year (Farm Credit Corporation, 1998). The government should also get more involved and start looking at the problem more seriously. President Clinton signed Executive Order 13073 chartering the president's Year 2000 Conversion Council, a high-level, coordinated effort to update the federal government's mission critical computer systems (Roberts, 1998). Clinton named John Koskinen chairman of the year 2000 Conversion Council.
The estimated costs to solve the Y 2 K problem are anywhere from 300 billion to 600 billion dollars worldwide. The United States alone is estimated to be above 70 billion dollars. Since there is a lot of money to be made from the Y 2 K bug, engineers and systems integrators have started their own businesses to provide solutions for the bug. The current status worldwide is different than that of the United States. Many countries are not as dependent on computers as the United States.
The U.S. is dependent upon them for raw materials, goods and services. We are tied to them through a network of shipping, communications, banking, finance, and trade. Other countries will have the same problem with the Y 2 K bug, but many of them have not even taken a look at the problem. The systems that we depend on from the foreign countries for products may fail, because they are not prepared. The problem needs to be fixed on both ends in order to avoid an economic collapse (Tippins, 1998).
Do to the shortsightedness of the programmers who originally developed the two digits as a standard operating procedure for computer systems, our nation will undergo many catastrophic problems. Many questions have risen over the Y 2 K bug and computer experts are trying their best to answer those questions, give insight on the bug, and come up with solutions to fix the problem.
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