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I spent most of 1999 modifying a number of legacy software systems to ensure that the rollover from 1999 to 2000 wouldn’t cause a problem. Just about everyone that I knew in the industry at the time, that could cut code, was doing the same. Every now and then, like last week on the radio, someone will claim that it was all hype, nothing happened and everything we did was a waste of time. I have stopped getting annoyed about it.
It did make me think though. I don’t know what other companies decided to do or how their software engineers implemented the decisions, but I do know that I didn’t ‘fix’ anything nor did any of my colleagues. We just applied band aids and moved the problem.
What we should have done was increased the size of the date fields in the databases so that the year could be stored as a four digit number (including the century) rather than as a two digit number and then modified all of the code that used those fields. That was deemed too expensive an option and would have meant changing database tables, the knock on effects of which were unknown (some legacy software addressed data in a table by its physical position in the table in bytes rather than by its field name, so making a field bigger could have caused chaos).
What we did was a fudge; we hard coded a magic number (typically 12 but sometimes 10), intercepted date retrieval calls and if the year was less that the magic number we added 2000 to it otherwise we added 1900 to it. The idea was that this fudge would work for ten years or so by which time the software would be properly fixed or replaced.
All of the engineering, admin and payroll systems I worked on are still in use and to my knowledge they have not been properly fixed.
I was wondering if any of you had similar experiences and if the Y2K problem may come back to bite our bums.
Nice try, I know you are more software savvy than that. You would be surprised how many people truly believed that was all they needed to do.
Hype and paranoia. I'm sure that ifthere were any scrap of truth in this it would have been found by the geeks and conspiracy theorists/triple yawn and back to bed.
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