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# Y2K Problem and Nuclear Weapons: Apocalypse or Annoyance?

Year 2000 Problem and Nuclear Weapons Apocalypse or Annoyance The inherent and unavoidable unreliability of computers is about to be stressed to some unknown and unknowable extent by a seemingly trivial feature--the Year 2000 Y2K problem Systems and application programs that use dates to perform calculations comparisons or sorting may generate incorrect results working with years after 1999 A Two Digit Problem The problem arises from the use of two digits to represent year data in many computer hardware and software implementations In the early years of computer development and use memory costs were high and processing speed slow so the use of two digit years 98 versus the full four digit year 1998 seemed like a good idea It used less memory which helped maintain acceptable processing speed and introduced few anomalies at mid-century Dates were typically represented by the six character date pattern YYMMDD and simple arithmetic could use the last two digits of the year which worked fine as long as the computations did not extend into the next century When a computer determined a persons age for example it would subtract the two digit year of birth example 53 for 1953 from the current two digit date-year 98 for 1998 producing the correct solution 45 years But on 01 January 2000 the shortened date-year becomes 00 Now however the simple arithmetic process produces an age of minus 45 obviously an incorrect age Another date related computer process is date sequencing The year 00 would incorrectly appear in the sequence of 00 97 98 99 Faulty sequencing may mani-fest itself in a variety of ways most of which are unknown and the subject of considerable speculation Many implementations will treat the data at face value canceling accounts or disposing of perishable products which are apparently dated to 1900 rather than 2000 Results of Y2K Some applications may simply lock up if

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