BackgroundApril 24, 1998: Y2K problems arise from computer programs (hardware and/or software) using two digits to represent the year instead of four or more. Thus, when going from the year 1999 to the year 2000, the computer is actually going from 99 to 00. Comparisons then made between the dates, which expect the date value only to increase, not decrease, over time, can lead to undefined, or unpredictable results.
Typically, this is not the fault of the designers or programmers themselves. It is a conscious decision by the managers or those in charge of approving the project or product. (Using four or more digits to represent the year requires more memory than just two, and, until very recently, memory was very expensive.) Very often, the eventual customer is not informed of this ‘cost- saving’ feature.
The following article makes the Y2K problems associated with your credit cards and driver’s license seem rather trivial.
StoryIn the United States, the ICBM (Inter-Continental Balistic Missile) silos have a number of millenium (also referred to as Y2K) problems.
One of the most remarkable is that, when the year rolls around to 2000 (or 00 in computer terms), the missile launch sequences will start. A couple moments later (depending upon the installation), the missiles will launch.
An interesting aspect about the launches is that, since a proper launch and targetting sequence was not performed, the missile will have an undefined target. “We have no idea where they will go. They might all head for Washington D.C. [location “0,0” in the missile computer’s memory], or they might just hit random targets. We really don’t know.”
Although the original designers and hardware and software engineers pointed out this potential problem, they were assured that, long before year 2000 rolled around, the software and hardware would have been upgraded. Due to defense spending cutbacks, those upgrades have not been performed.
Although the average individual would consider this a high-priority item, no-one in the lower military or consulting ranks wants to be the one to bring it up, and no-one in the upper ranks wants to hear about it. Because of this, very few in Congress have even heard about it.
This is not a problem in Russian or Chinese missile silos, since they don’t care what year it is (or even what time or day it is). (Of course, a ‘surprise’ launch by the United States, regardless of targets intended or unintended, will result in an immediate retaliation by both countries – among others.)
Have a nice day.