Y2k – The Millenium Bug Essay, Research Paper
The Y2K problem, the year 2000 bug, and the millenium bug are all different names for the same major problem that all computers face once the clock strikes midnight, January 1, 2000. Some say that it is only a minor glitch, yet some experts refer to it as “Armageddon.” The problem stems from old systems which store the year portion of dates in two-digit form (i.e.: 1997 is stored as “97″). Years ago, COBOL programmers used this approach to conserve memory because it was very costly then. This actually is a very ingenious system, because it is simple, it saves a lot of memory, and it works. However, the original programmers overlooked one major problem: When the century (or millenium) changes to a year ending in “00,” the computer will misinterpret the “00″ to mean “1900″ instead of “2000.” Some people also point out that the systems may not be able to recognize the year 2000 as a leap year, because it is only one out of every four centuries that is a leap year, causing the computer to skip February 29, 2000 (if it even makes it past January 1).
The most devastating issue with the Y2K problem is the fact that nobody knows exactly what is going to happen. Experts are unable to determine how a system is going to react when it encounters 12:00 AM, January 1, 2000. It may just reset to January 1, 1900, it may lock up, or it may crash. Y2K is not isolated to any one piece of hardware or software in a system. The problem may lie in any one of the system components. Even with computers with Year 2000 “Compliant” or “Ready” software, such as Microsoft Windows 98 , it is not guaranteed that the system as a whole is Y2K compliant. The failure of programs on the computer is not the only problem. Some hardware components could be affected as well. An example of a component that all computer systems have that could be affected is the system BIOS and the Real Time Clock (RTC), which track the date and time for the entire system.
Still, it is not only computers that will be affected. Many electronic devices which most people do not consider computers contain small computers, called micro-controllers or programmable logic controllers (PLCs). Any type of personal electronic device, especially those which keep track of the date and time, could be affected and rendered useless by the Y2K bug.
Most large-scale companies are spending hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars on tracking down and fixing this problem. However, many experts say that most businesses will not go under. They say that if any businesses do go under, it will be the small businesses which do not have the capacity to deal with a problem of this scale. The large businesses, however, do have the capability to cope with this problem with minimal losses. These businesses, such as the Microsoft Corporation and Intel , have done extensive research on the Y2K problem, spending in the millions of dollars, and have developed hardware and software which is Y2K compliant. They are also making efforts to inform the public of the problem and communicate to them how to prepare for it through newspapers, television, and the Internet. In addition, many companies offer software for download which will test a user s system for Y2K compatibility.
There are, however, always the zealots who are taking this problem way out of proportion. Some fear that because of the Y2K problem, the stock market will crash, and that banking systems will go down, so they are pulling out all their money out of their banks and selling their shares in companies. Others are stocking up on canned goods and preparing for as mentioned above Armageddon.
The Y2K problem has caused very different reactions from different people throughout the world. The world today is almost entirely based on computers, and there are few who do not interact with them on a day-to-day basis. This problem will affect everyone who does use computers, and as January 1, 2000 approaches, computer users anxiety levels are rising. What will be the outcome? Will Y2K be the end of the world as we know it? We ll all find out at midnight, January 1, 2000.