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Y2K



The easiest way to find out what disasters await our computer controlled
systems on January 1, 2000 is to simulate the situation.  Nobody wants
to actually wait around to find out until the lighted ball drops on
Times Square.  

Contrary to popular belief, most computers lack any reasoning
capability, much less cynicism or knowledge of human nature.  If you
tell them it is 1/1/2000, they will believe you, no questions asked. 
This little trick is very easy to do.

The key here is simulation.  You don't actually want control valves
opening and closing on manufacturing operations or wastewater treatment
plants.  So put the software on a machine that isn't connected to
anything else, enter the fallacious date, and see what happens.  Really
put the program through its paces.  With luck, you'll find that you have
no problem at all.  Or else, things will screw up, and you'll have a
good idea where to go looking for the problem (like the subtraction of
one date from another to give a duration).

Obviously, this is not going to work for all systems. But if it is
applicable, it's a good way to start.

Not to trivialize the problem, I know people who have been working for
months on fixing big, complicated, user-specific programs.  My point is
that the first step is to find out which, if any, of the programs that
you use will have a problem.  You may be able to accomplish this initial
diagnosis yourself without reading a single line of computer code. Good
luck.

Bruce Herrick
NJIT