Ever wonder why they didn't fix Y2K sooner?

Flashback a few decades, to the days when this pilot fish is the new data center supervisor, and finally allowed to run second shift.

"It was Feb. 29th -- I think it was 1964," says fish. "One of the operators told me something strange was happening when he started to run the nightly production systems."

The first step in the nightly production run includes entering the Julian date -- that is, the day of the year, with Jan. 1 as day 1. Then the system responds with the current date in the normal month, day and year format.

But the operator tells fish that when he entered 60, instead of coming back with 2/29/64, it responded with 3/1/64.

Obviously, it's some kind of leap year bug. But it can't be in the mainframe's operating system -- so where is it? Fish and the operator try everything they can think of to figure out what's going on, but with no success.

Finally, one of the programmers happens to come into the computer room to check on a test he's been running, and fish shows him what's going on.

Programmer is baffled. He leaves to make a phone call.

Within minutes there are several systems people milling around, trying to work out what's happening to the last day of February.

"One of them remembered the program that sat between the operating system and the application," fish says. "He accessed the file containing the program listing, and in the comments we found this: 'Thirty days hath September, all the rest I can't remember.'

"At the end of the production cycle that night there were 20 or 30 programmers and systems people helping to figure out how we could enter the correct date into each application program."

Sharky just needs 217 more true tales of IT life this year. So send me your stories at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll get a stylish Shark shirt every time I use one. Comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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