Office of the Chief Minister

Beat the Y2K bug!!!


What is the Y2K Millennium/Y2K bug?

The Millennium Bug, or Y2K Bug as it is sometimes called, is a computer "Bug" which can affect computer systems and other electronic items containing micro-processors as we move into the year 2000 and the new millennium. This "Bug" occurs because until recently most computer based systems used a two digit code for the year eg. 98 represents 1998, 63 represents 1963. As we move into the new Millennium computer based systems will translate the year 00 to mean 1900 instead of 2000, 01 to mean 1901 instead of 2001 and so on. Another aspect of the Millennium Bug is the recognition of the year 2000 being a leap year. It is a general rule that century years such as 1800 and 1900 are not leap years, but the exception to this rule are centuries evenly divisible by 400, such as the year 2000. There will therefore be a date 29th February 2000. Some computers have been programmed with the knowledge that no century year is a leap year and so will not recognise the year 2000 as one.

It seems obvious to represent years using four digits, but nearly half a century ago the computer memory of the day was very expensive and cumbersome. Many mainframe computers relied on punch cards to load programs from and save data to. These cards stored information by means of small holes punched into 80 narrow columns. A single card could only hold a small amount of information such as a name, short address and date of birth. It therefore took many cards to hold a relatively small amount of data. It was decided to squeeze as much information onto a single card as possible to save storage space of the cards and money. In order to accomplish this dates were reduced to six digits eg. 210472 to represent 21st April 1972. As storage media improved and became cheaper, the six digit date remained as it had become common practice. Between 1960 and 1970 the American National Bureau of Standards debated whether to standardise years as four digits or two digits. After pressure from the Pentagon they finally settled on a two digit year standard.

It has only been since the mid 1990's that the Millennium problem has been taken seriously, with billions of dollars being spent to change computer hardware and software to recognise four digit years. This is an on-going project which will not be complete the world over by 1st January 2000.

To overcome the Millennium bug computer manufacturers and Software Engineers have spent recent years changing the standards for year identification to four digits. The year 1999 is now represented by the four digits 1999 and the year 2000 will be represented by the digits 2000 instead of 00.

Beat the Y2K Bug!!!

Y2K Project
Chief Minister's Office

Government of the British Virgin Islands
Central Administration Complex

33 Admin Drive,
Road Town, Tortola,
British Virgin Islands
Telephone: 284-494-3701 x 2626       Facsimile: 284-494-6413

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This page was last updated on: 12/29/99 06:23:36 PM