Year 2000 Problem 3509 - Essay Example

Argument for the statement “The Year 2000 bug will have such extensive

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repercussions that families and individuals should begin planning now for the

imminent chaos.” The Ticking Bomb Introduction A serious problem called the

“Millennium Bug”, and also known as the “Year 2000 Problem”

and “Y2K”, is bringing a new century celebration into a daunting

nightmare. In the 1860s and 1970s, when computer systems were first built, the

computer hardware, especially information storage space, was at a premium. With

an effort to minimise storage costs, numeric storage spaces were drained to the

smallest possible data type. Ignoring the fact that a software may be run in

multiple centuries, programmers started conserving storage spaces by using two

digits to specify a year, rather than four. Consequently, on January 1, 2000,

unless the software is corrected, most software programs with date or time may

malfunction to recognise the entries in the year fields “00” as the

year as “1900” instead of “2000” . Year 2000 problem is not

restricted only to the above exigency. 20 years ago, everybody understood that a

leap year came every 4th year except for every 100th year. However, a piece of

algorithm has been forgotten by most people – a leap year does exist every 400

years. So, under the first two rules, year 2000 is not a leap year, but with the

third rule, it actually is. Computing errors will also occur before Year 2000.

Values such as 99 are sometimes used for special purposes not related to the

date. The number 99 is used in some systems as an expiration date for data to be

archived permanently – so some computers may lose the data a year before 2000.

Programmers and software developers were surprised to see some of their programs

survive for only a few years but failed to anticipate the problems coming by the

year 2000. It is sorrowful to find most programs are still in use or have been

incorporated into successor systems. Because of the need for new applications to

share data in a common format with existing systems, inheriting the six-digit

date field that has become a standard over time. The disaster scenario envisaged

is that a great number of computer systems around the world will make processing

errors and will either crash or produce incorrect outputs . As a result

financial institutions, businesses organisations, informational technology and

even aeroplane radar communications will all then be in a welter of confusion.

In military services, the system meltdown may also worsen the appropriate

control of nuclear missiles in silos. It is a ticking time bomb destined to

wreak havoc on millions of computer systems in every economy, both commercial

and residential, and thus need everyone’s serious attention. However, the bug is

likely to affect more staggeringly the business computers which imply an

alarming economic problem. Many organisations have not yet started projects to

examine the impact of the millennium bug on their systems. By applying The

Standish Group’s CHAOS research to Year 2000 projects, 73% of Y2K projects

will fail according to the pace now taking. The biggest challenge for these

companies is convincing top level management of the severity of the year 2000

problem and the amount of time, money and resources needed to fix it. On that

account, to ensure this disaster is minimised, none of us should worm out of

devoting resources in preventing the potential anarchy. It is a costly Task As

simple as the problem sounds, the fix for the Millennium Bug will cost up to

US$600 billion world-wide, according to estimates by the Gartner Group, a

leading information technology consultancy. The software fixes are very

time-consuming, requiring considerable effort to examine millions of lines of

source code in order to locate problem date fields and correct them. The costs

to apply the fixes will vary from company to company, but research has given the

figure of approximately between US$0.50 to $2 per line of source code for

modification, with these costs expected to escalate as much as 50 per cent for

every year that projects are delayed. Unfortunately, this average excludes date

conversions on military weapons systems software, which is expected to be

significantly more expensive to convert, and the real figure should even be much

larger. One of the first steps an organisation needs to take on the way to

ensuring Year 2000 compliance is to determine what they have to be changed. The

business will need to prepare an inventory of hardware and software utilised to

allow assessment of problem areas. It is hard to address the potential for

problems when no clear picture of the problem space is available. Documentation

showing the processing steps being performed by the company’s computer system in

order to accomplish business functions needs to be available to ensure that all

procedures are present and accounted for. There is no “Silver Bullet”

The problem looks straightforward, all we need is just to check each line of

code, locate the two-digit date fields, expand them to four digit and test the

correction. Unfortunately, these modifications are mostly manual labour – not

an automatic process. Software Dilemma Six-digit date fields are generally

scattered throughout practically every level of computing, from operating

systems to software applications and databases. Some dates have numeric

representation, while other have alphanumeric representations. This adds to the

complexity of the problem from a management and technical point of view. The bug

contaminates a large area that nearly all of the program codes must be examined

to ensure that correction is free from side-effects. A case in point, a typical

medium size organisation, a state comptroller’s office in United States, is

predicted to spend US$5.6 million to $6.2 million to make the software

conversion, that is, nearly a billion lines of code must be repaired.

Furthermore, there are computing languages still in use today that only a

handful of people are even aware of, let alone proficient enough to be called

experts. Skills for some older, more obscure languages and systems will, more

than likely, make the Y2K a more serious problem. Some uses of two digit dates

may not be obvious. For example, the UK Driving Licence number encodes the

holder’s date of birth – using a two digit year code. Dates used in this

nature will create Year 2000 problems without the obvious use of dates in the

program. Some systems use dates fields for non-standard uses, such as special

indicators and how your systems have abused the date field is something you can

only find out by looking at every line of code, which is a huge costs in time

and resources. With the variety of programming languages and platforms in use

throughout that past three decades, and the multitude of uses for date fields,

and the extensiveness of infected programming area, no single “silver

bullet” could exist to correct the problem. Moreover, the problem cannot be

solved individually. Y2K is a universal problem which will bring a chain effect

among industries and firms. No business is immune, every firm is affected –

either directly in its own operation, or indirectly, by the action or inaction

of others. A Year 2000 compliant computer system may fail to process, produce

error messages or generate incorrect data even if it receives contaminated

programs or data from a third party that is not Year 2000 compliant. With all

these issues involved, and with remaining time ever decreasing, management

awareness must focus on these problems. The Hardware Dilemma If the computer

hardware cannot handle dates past 31/12/99 then no software solution can fix it.

Some applications request the system date directly from the hardware and cannot

be trapped by the operating system, which obviates a software resolution. For

instance, the PC hardware problem can be explained as follows. The standard PC

computer system maintains two system dates: one is in the CMOS Real Time Clock

chip, a hardware component normally located on the machine’s motherboard that

stores time, date and system information such as drive types; and the other one

is in the operating system software, these two dates are represented

differently, influencing one another. When the computer boots, it normally

initialises its current date by reading the date in the CMOS Real Time Clock and

converting it to days since January 1, 1980. The PC maintains its date as long

as the system is running; the CMOS Real Time Clock hardware maintains its date

whether the system is running or not, but it does not maintain the century. So,

the standard flaw lurks in the CMOS Real Time Clock date when Year 2000 is

reached as it reads an out-of-range date. Moreover, a few specific Basic

Input/Output Systems cause behaviour other than the standard flaw. Importantly,

the Award v4.50 series BIOS will not allow any date after 1999 and can not be

corrected by any software. Dates are integrated in computer hardware, from

mainframe, mid-range machines, all the way down to network infrastructure. Date

fields are used in some of the most basic computer functions such as calculating

and sorting and will affect a large majority of systems. If year fields are

expanded to 4 digits, this will automatically give rise to the need for

additional storage space. In due course, the original reasons for the

introduction of 6 digit dates will resurface. Any computer application that

accepts or displays dates on the screen or produces a report with date fields

will need to be redesigned. On-line transaction databases will need to be

converted and the new expanded database will need to be kept in sync with the

old active database during the conversion process. In some cases there will be

insufficient space available to accept or display additional data, forcing a

major revision. If paper forms are used for input, these will also need to be

redesigned. Screen, report and form redesign appear to be a minor issue in the

context of the Millennium Bug, but the design of screen and reports are

important from a usability perspective, and the redesign process cannot be

automated. Any changes to the way dates are handled in an organisation will need

to be coupled with staff training to ensure that all staff are aware of any new

standards. Other Dilemma Implied However, to ensure that the corrected work runs

free of errors after January 1, 2000 midnight, testing of the changed code must

be performed. There is no way around this. As testing is around 50% of all

programming tasks, the actual programming tasks are just one small cog in the

wheel used to resolve the Millennium Bug. With the rigidly fixed deadline, and

the ever decreasing amount of time, this will require a large investment in

resources, to ensure a smooth run from the development to production phases.

Less seriously discussed in the Year 2000 issue by the public, as the Year 2000

deadline approaches and the time remaining for corrective work shrinks,

companies may choose, or be forced into, outsourcing the resolution of their

Millennium Bug to a Year 2000 service provider. The ‘service provider’ would

have to load a copy of the software onto its computer system to perform the bug

fixes, and this raises the issue of software licensing. Many licences contain

restrictions barring licensees from providing a copy of the software to any

third party without the consent of the licenser, and this could present problems

in the event of a dispute between vendor and client. Conclusion The year 2000

challenge is inescapable and omnipresent, affecting every businesses and

individuals, regardless of age or platform. As discussed, there are many aspects

of the Millennium Bug problem that are not immediately obvious, ranging from

legal issues such as copyright and licensing, to issues of available resources

and existing bugs. Carrying out a solution in any business involves careful

planning in order to be successful. The four steps – awareness, planning,

implementation, and testing – are crucial for a company to run successfully

beyond the year 2000. Unlike most other IT projects there is a definite, fixed

and immovable deadline for implementation. If there is not enough time to

complete the programming and testing, or if unexpected delays occur, the

deadline remains fixed and cannot be moved. Only if companies start corrective

action soon enough and devote sufficient resources to the effort can minimise

the effect of this universal nightmare. Table A – Example of the Year 2000

Problem With Current Date Format (mm/dd/yy) Current Date Birth Date Calculated

Age 06/19/99 06/19/59 40 06/19/00 06/19/59 – 59, 59, or Error Corrected to

8-Digit Date Format (mm/dd/yy) Current Date Birth Date Calculated Age 06/19/2000

16/19/1959 41 N.B. this requires that two dates be changed (both current date

and birth date) Figure B – Some Sources of Year 2000 Problem Computer Central

Processing Unit8 Hardware Clock8 BIOS (Basic Input/ Output System)8 Network

server Other Hardware8 Modem8 Added Printed Circuit Card8 Telephone Answering

Machine8 Video Equipment Software8 Operating System8 Packaged Software8 In-house

Code, Databases, Spreadsheets, etc. Embedded Chips8 Process Control Systems8 Fax

Machines8 Video Cassette Recorder8 Heating, Ventilation and Air conditioning

Control8 Internal Combustion Engine8 Automatic Camera8 Security System8 Fire

Detection System8 Medical Equipment8 Time-keeping and Attendance Systems8

Bar-code Reader System

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