Désolé, j'ai pas encore eu le temps de traduire cette page. En fait, pour la petite histoire, c'est le sujet de mon dernier oral d'anglais, alors je me suis dis, puisque je l'ai tapé, autant que ça serve à grande échelle et voilà!

Part 1 - What is the Year 2000 problem ?

Part 2 - The actual situation :

2a - Why is this a problem now ?

2b - Two way to obtain dates .

2c - How bad is the Y2K problem ?

2d - When does the Y2K bomb explode ?

Part 3 - Solutions and possibilities :

3a - Are they solutions ?

3b - As an individual, what can you do ?

A few numbers

Part 1 : What is the Year 2000 problem ? [top]

To reduce the costs of computers in the 60s and 70s, programmers have chosen to delete the first two numbers of the years in the RTC ( Real Time Clock ) of their systems.

Example : 01/07/1976 was stored as six digit fields : 010776 ... and not as eight digit fields : 01071976 .

In the 60s, programmers haven’t hope that the computers and the systems will be used during so many years and they haven’t mind any further problems.

Part 2 : The situation near the Y2K ? [top]

a - Why is there a problem now ?

When the computers became popular in the 80s, the old systems were upgraded by new graphical presentation, but instead of being replaced, they grew in size.

Because most of the old systems were not designed to run multiple centuries, most will either produce incorrect
information or simply fail at the end of this century.

It doesn’t looks like a big problem to solve, but it involves a great deal of financial and human resources.

2b - Two way to obtain dates :

There are two ways to obtain the date for a software :

1 - by consulting the BIOS or the exploitation system (ex :Windows95). If the BIOS has been modified to support the next millennium problem, it will give the software and the Exploitation system a four digit date.

2 - by consulting the RTC. It’s fastest of a few milliseconds and this gain of time is important for some special applications and software. But it can’t be modified easily. If just the BIOS have been modified, it will produce a error for the system.

2c - How bad is the Y2K problem ?

The problem will affect most PC based applications which use the RTC. The Macintosh systems will not be affected.

According to the GARTNER Group, it will cost more than $ 600 billion world-wide. The economist Ed Yardini estimates in
January 1998 the probability of a Y2K induced recession to be 40 %. In June of the same year, he raised his recession probability from 40 % to 60 % to 70 %.

It wouldn’t be a so big problem if governments and companies have dealt with it earlier, but now it is a raced against the clock.

2d - When does the Y2K bomb explode ?

For many companies and organisations who deals with orders and previsions in the next months or years, the problem will occur earlier than the 1/1/2000.
We can retain three critical dates :

1 - The 9th of September 1999 : Old software consider the code 9999 as a « end-of-file » procedure ; the coded date is 9-9-99.
2 - The 1st of January 2000 : The internal clock of computers and electronically based machines, which just know dates as 6 digit numbers, will regress to the 1st of January 1900.
3 - The 28th of February 2000 : Even if they are compatible with the third millennium, some systems will jump the 29th of February 2000, because the year 2000 is a leap-year, the year 1900 was not.

Part 3 : Solutions and possibilities : [top]

3a - Are they solutions ?

The first solutions consist in modifying the BIOS ( Basic Input Output System ) date. Most of the applications and software consult the BIOS to know the date.
The operation is not very expensive, just adding a few lines in a program. But this is not a solution because most applications are consulting the RTC too (see Part 2 - 2b).
An other solutions consist in adding a special component aside the processor. The component will intercept the data transfer from the BIOS to the software and modify it into a eight digit number. A American firm installs computers with this system since 1992. The cost is only a few pounds.
But these solutions, called « puncture-patch », don’t satisfy some experts who thinks that the massive add of these programs or components will affect the maintenance and the possibilities of a system.

3b - As an individual, what can you do ?

First, you need to keep well informed. Given the potential of the disaster, there has been little media coverage of the Y2K bomb. You will certainly hear some more during the next months, as some organisations begin to feel the sting.
You might think that the disaster will not affect you or your family but think again ! Everybody depends on computers directly or indirectly. You need to make sure that any essential equipment ( bank, employer, utility companies ) that you depend on is « Y2K compliant ».

A few numbers : [top]

· Cost of the Year 2000 problems : Between $500 billion and $1000 billion (the approximate gain of money done by computers since they’re used to increase productivity ! ).

· In January 1998, Ed Yardini estimates the probability of a Y2K induced recession to be 40 %.
In June of the same year, this probability raised to 70 %.

· Three critical dates :
1. The 9th of September 1999 : The code « 9999 » (this date is coded as 9/9/99) is a « end-of-file » order for computer programs.
2. The 1st of January 2000 : Some computers and systems will pass from 31/12/1999 to 1/1/1900, because of the 6 digit fields for dates.
3. The 28th of February 2000 : The year 1900 was not a leap-year, but the year 2000 is one. Some computers will pass from the 28/02/2000 to the 1/03/2000.

· Some studies in France showed recently that more than 80 % of the companies (PME & PMI) haven’t placed any resources to check if their systems were Y2K compliant.
· 12 % of these companies are self declaring that they will pass the next millennium without problems.
· 73 % of these companies have said that they will check their systems when the Y2K will be closer.

· For a software of 1 billion lines, we can estimate that there is a date all the 50.000 lines. Some existing software check and correct them for us, but they miss 20 % of the dates !

Vocabulary : [top]

B.I.O.S. : The Basic Input Output System is a software which organises the basic functions of a computer and checks the system when switched on. It is written into a electronic component that we can modify.

R.T.C. : The Real Time Clock is an electronic component which always keeps the hour and date in a computer. It is inside a several-function component, so it’s hard to modify it.

Puncture-patch : It is a software or a electronic component which corrects a error. Some companies, of computers and software industry, have get into the habit of adding puncture-patch to their products, making them slower and complicate to maintain.

par Alain-Pierre Forsans

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