y2K - Just the first?

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I listened to a very interesting interview with Capers Jones at http://www.realvoices.com/y2k/index.htm "Year2000.com in the Field." In it, he talks about other cases of date problems (related to UNIX)the GPS rollover, and also some data field expansions which will cause major heartburn in the future. According to Mr. Jones, SSA will soon run out of 9-digit Social Security numbers. We are quickly running out of phone numbers, too. In the case of the phone and SS numbers, adding more digits will require an overhaul of many databases. He didn't mention it, but the new IP addressing scheme presents similar problems. I'd like to know your thoughts on this, since they all seem to be symptoms of the same problem (a human one, not a computer one) Although they don't have the same potential to cause chaos as Y2K, they are serious. Also I'd like to see any projections of when these things will occur. Any info?

-- Mike (gartner@execpc.com), September 16, 1998


Mike, this is the best article I've seen that covers most of those dates. Hope it helps!


-- Gayla Dunbar (privacy@please.com), September 16, 1998.



-- Mike (gartner@execpc.com), September 16, 1998.

The answer to the 'larger number' problems you bring up has actually been solved some time ago by the computer design folks. When you upgrade a chip to a larger register/command set, you make the old instruction set a subset of the new set. Then all the old programs will run correctly on the new machine, even though the old programs were not compiled for this machine. Like so - suppose we create an assumption that all SSN numbers that have the $$$-$$-$$$$ format have a leading 000-. Then all the old numbers can be processed as 'short' numbers, and the new numbers will have the format $$$-$$$-$$-$$$$. The benefit of this approach is that we avoid reissuing millions of numbers to folks, and we avoid rebuilding the SS database. The problem with this approach, of course, is the extra layer of software to handle translations from the old database to the new numbers. Also, it assumes no one uses the SSN other than the SSA - a false assumption as we all know. Still, it is one possibility for a fix, whether or not SSA goes that route.

I think the expansion of the IP addresses is supposed to use the current numbers as a subset, at least the first draft of the proposed change gave this as a goal. Haven't had time to check out later drafts, been too busy trying to kill Y2K bugs for the Corps of Engineers.

-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), September 17, 1998.

It's easy to forget today, but computer storage (both RAM and disk) used to be very expensive. I can remember dollars per KILObyte, and that's not going back to anywhere near the start of commercial computing. Back in those days no-one would want to make an ID field more than ten times larger than anticipated need.

Today it's no big deal, but Y2K is rooted in history as are most of these other problems.

The human problem is a tendency to do nothing until the latest possible time, or often not until considerably later than that. It's particularly vicious with Y2K because the deadline is utterly immovable.

-- Nigel Arnot (nra@maxwell.ph.kcl.ac.uk), September 17, 1998.

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