Throwback Thursday: Is this the end for Y2K?

Systems support pilot fish starts getting reports that a special Y2K tool has stopped working -- in early 2008.

"To prepare for Y2K, our company bought this commercial product to do all Y2K century-digits correction and set up all applications to use that software," says fish.

"It stopped working correctly all of a sudden, early in 2008. I was told to find a fix for it immediately."

Fish examines the original installation of the date-fixing software, circa 1997, and quickly finds the problem. The software uses a "century window" approach, so that every date after a specific two-digit year is assumed to be in the 1900s, while every date earlier is in the 2000s.

Turns out that whoever installed it set the century window to "08" -- and hard-coded that value into subroutines in every application that uses the date-fixing package.

A call to the vendor is no help; Y2K is far in the past, and the product is no longer supported. So fish gets creative.

"Fortunately, I had the source code for the subroutines," fish says. "I devised a 'floating' century window of two years in advance of today's date. I then did a mass edit and recompile of the affected applications to load the vendor subroutine at runtime. This worked just fine."

But not long after, a new problem shows up: Applications dealing with date-of-home-construction begin failing again. This time, homes built before 1910 aren't being processed correctly.

And all those dates are actually stored in a four-digit format, so they should be fine after Y2K.

Fish checks incoming data and finds that some clever developer "fixed" the four-digit year dates to drop the leading two digits, so the applications will run correctly using the Y2K vendor's subroutine without having to fix each of the application programs.

Reports fish, "I had another emergency fix, this time to drop calls to the Y2K vendor subroutine when incoming data contains full four-digit year dates. I did another mass edit of all the applications that use date-of-home-construction and removed the offending date truncation process from the data processing stream.

"Is this the end of the Y2K saga? I know developers are very clever..."

Sharky figures it'll all get fixed -- by about Y3K. In the meantime, send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You can also comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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