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- To: seaoc(--nospam--at)seaoc.org
- Subject: Year 2000 computer problem
- From: "R.D.McConnell" <rdmcconnell(--nospam--at)erols.com>
- Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 00:04:05 -0500
Earlier this year I sent a letter to the Washington Post as I was getting a bit perplexed at many comments in the press concerning the so-called Y2K problem. I also discussed this with one of the Post reporters. The letter, however, was never published. I have written to you in the past only to briefly provide other information requested by one or more of your authors. This is a bit longer than you probably would desire, but I believe it is relevant. Let's see how many of you experienced engineers agree with my original "Y2K" letter herewith: Sophomoric articles and letters continue to appear in the Post regarding the "Year 2000 Computer Bug". This is potentially a widespread computer problem, but certainly not one requiring $50 billion to correct (as quoted in recent Post articles). The ABC News Reports on the internet is even estimating a cost of "up to $600 billion will be spent worldwide to rewrite 250 billion lines of code". I am astonished at the increasing hysteria. I have put the majority of people in one of two categories: those too primitive to know any better; and those profiting either by dollars, or by laughter, at the first group. I attended a meeting in Fairfax County, Virginia, recently of a "Y2K Community Action Group". I thought I was at one of those meetings in old British mystery films where, at any moment, I could expect an old tall spinster in all black to come out and start yelling, "Repent!" For 40 years, I have been doing some type of programming, beginning in the fifties before the introduction of such programming compilers as Fortran, etc. and I believe, as do many others, that the technical issue is grossly exaggerated. Ordinarily, this type of correction to alter input data formats (such as the year) requires an original "source" listing of the program. If that is not available, there are means to obtain such a listing from the current program in use. It is then a minimal effort to determine the entry for the date. It is only necessary to change the 2-digit integer representation of the date to a 4-digit integer to account for the "2000" problem. No other change beyond that should be necessary. If further search is thought necessary, there are several simple alternatives to quickly locate any operations in the program involving the date. With specific regard to COBOL programming (mentioned in several Post articles on this subject), I would quote from a widely used computer handbook: "COBOL programs are verbose but easy to read because most commands resemble English. The programmer, therefore, hardly can help documenting the program, and program maintenance and enhancement are easy even if personnel change frequently. COBOL is the most widely used programming language in corporate mainframe environments." As for the extent of the problem existing in non-programmable "chips" as mentioned in some of these same articles, that may be a nuisance, but the remedy would seem to be, in general, simple. Obsolescence is obsolescence. The problem is one of extent and inept management, past and present, not technical procedures. Give the suspected programs to some clever high school hackers and we will save a few billion dollars.
- Re: Year 2000 computer problem
- From: Andrew Goh
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