Letter: Millennium misery

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The Independent Culture
Sir: In the panic about the "millennium (Y2K) bug", it seems we may be building up even bigger problems for ourselves in the future.

Back in the 1960s, apparently, programmers took a short cut, indicating dates with just the last two digits, thus creating problems for the year 2000. They presumably thought that by now all their systems would be obsolete.

However, if we now successfully convert everything to four figures, we will have an even bigger problem in 8,000 years' time, at the turn of 9999. The next year will be 10000.

By that time, the four-figure system will have been embedded in everything for 8,000 years. If we go back 8,000 years from now, we go back to the earliest neolithic times and the fragmentary traces, in a few places, of something akin to civilisation, and before the beginning of writing.

The Y10K bug, by then embedded in chips almost twice as old as the pyramids are now, will be vastly more difficult to sort out. They certainly won't be able to find the original programmers.

Please, therefore, let us go to five digits, now. I would imagine that by 99999 - in 98,000 years' time, if we are still here, we should have managed to upgrade all the chips from the first 10 millennia.

Dr CHRIS BELLAMY

London W3

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