Search
  • Divah Sprik Law Notes

WHAT WAS THE Y2K BUG?









Published by: Ria Khanna


Amidst the pandemic, on 12th May, 2020 the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi addressed the nation to introduce the “Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan Package” worth INR 20 lakh crore, while emphasizing on the need and the ability of the nation to be self-reliant. He, also, fleetingly cited the event of Y2K Bug, which globally invoked a flurry of hysterical reactions. In the 1990s, due to the growing dependency on technology, it was anticipated that the Y2K Problem would cause much turbulence to all sectors that were actively using the intelligence systems in their day to day operations. The author discusses what the Y2K bug was, its implications and the approach that was adopted to resolve the issue at hand.


Background

The Year 2000 Bug was discovered on an internet group in the year 1995. The technical glitch was coined as the Y2K Bug by a programmer named David Eddy from Massachusetts. It was apprehended that this bug would hamper the operations of various sectors especially the communication sector which was termed the “central nervous system of the modern society”. In a nut shell, the Y2K Problem was believed to be a technical glitch pertaining to the inability of the computer systems to process the change in the date beyond December 31, 1999, accurately.


Computer programmers feared the said glitch because the computers programs that were coded in the 1950s and 1960s stored the calendar year using a two digit code. The calendars in the computer systems were developed in the said manner to save the cost of data storage. For instance, the year 1980 would be read as “80”. It was apprehended that the computer system may recognize “00” as the calendar year “1900” instead of the calendar year“2000”. However, some argued that these apprehensions were futile in nature.


The Impact of the Y2K Bug

Computer experts were unable to prematurely predict the ramifications of the Y2K Problem. However, some technical issues antecedent to the big event resulted in disruptions on the economic and legal front. This begged for technical compliance of computer programs to redress the issue at hand. It is pertinent to cite events that transpired prior to the main event that was expected to cause much upheaval on January 1st, 2000.


One such instance is of a Year 2000 Test that was conducted by the Chrysler Corporation at one of its plants. The security system of the said plant was affected to the extent that the employees were unable to egress from the plant. Another such instance was when a computer hardware company was sued for selling credit card readers which could not recognize any dates of the year 2000. The owner of the supermarket claimed that the registers were unable to correctly process credit cards with an expiry date in or after the year 2000. During the lawsuit, the Plaintiff alleged damages of hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of the inability of the registers to function properly and, at times, to shut down entirely. In the result, the lawsuit was settled out of court for US£250,000.00.


Fortunately, the 2000 issue did not adversely impact the regular day-to-day operations. The Y2K incident was not a catastrophe to the IT Industry. The communication network worked seamlessly and the problems were truly limited. It is believed that most companies did not bring their problems in the public eye because they did not want to inundate the society with a negative sentiment. However, the century date change problem did affect the other sectors because their software was not Y2K compliant. But there were some incidents where technical glitches did occur in credit card machines, 911 systems, clock failures, systems at the airport, incidents at the nuclear power plants in Japan and the United States of America, amongst other such instances. Post the Y2K event, the computer programmers were lauded for their efforts to make the systems Y2K compliant. However, on the other

hand they were also lambasted for magnifying the threat of the Y2K bug.


Solutions

A varied number of approaches were adopted to resolve the century date change problem in order to make the systems’ Y2K compliant. These are as follows –

  1. Date Expansion

Two digit years have been extended to include the century, becoming four-digit years in programs, files and databases. This was considered to be the optimal solution, resulting in clear dates that are permanent and easy to maintain. But this process turned out to be expensive, requiring massive testing and conversion efforts, and generally affecting entire systems.


2. Windowing

Two-digit years have been retained and programs have determined the value of the century only when it is necessary for specific functions, such as date comparisons and calculations. (The century window refers to the 100-year period to which the date belongs.) This technique, which required the installation of small code patches in programs, was easier to test and implement than the expansion of the date, and therefore, much less costly. Although not a permanent solution, windowing has usually been designed to work for several decades. It was found appropriate, since outdated legacy technologies continue to ultimately be replaced by modern hardware.


3. Software Kits

These software kits are free of charge, and those that do cost a fortune are a steal relative to the cost of recovering the data if there is an interruption. This list of major downloads includes screen saver and a countdown program as well for the satisfaction of knowing that the computer is Y2K compliant. Some of these are IntelliFIX 2000, Millennium Bug Kit, Norton 2000 BIOS Test and Fix, Office 95 Year 2000 Update etc.


Impact on India

Digitalization in India was way behind its time in comparison to a few other nations. Therefore, the country did not bear the brunt of the Y2K bug incident in the way the other countries did. However, the bug did contribute towards the boom in the IT sector in India. 27% of the Year 2000 bug exports were from the capital city of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh in India.


Infosys Technology was the first Indian company which was established in the United States of America and drew a substantial amount of its revenue to fix the Year 2000 glitch. Infosys was not the only Indian company which was working of the Y2K bug. Satyam Computers Pvt. Ltd. and IIS Infotech are two companies amongst many other in India that greatly contributed to the Y2K Bug. Rusi Brij, the Vice President of Satyam Computers Pvt. Ltd. termed the technical glitch as a god sent gift to the software companies in India. Many software engineers in India were employed to fix the bug. This was because of the fact that labor in India was cheap in comparison to most developed countries. The software engineer earned 40% of their income by working on the omnipresent glitch.


Conclusion

Two decades later, owing to the global technological advancement, the Y2K bug is perceived as an obstacle which is archaic to the digital world, which was once believed to cause a permanent dent to the computer systems around the world. The world yet again has been brought to a standstill due to the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic, which was unanticipated. We may perceive COVID-19 to be grave in nature in comparison to the century date change problem, as the coronavirus is fatal to the human life. However, we can learn a lot from the Y2K event. One of the main reasons the world was able to tackle the Y2K bug was because innumerable studies were conducted on the subject and the software companies worked endless to make most of the systems Y2K compliant, before January 1st, 2000. Even though the current crisis was unanticipated, we can still prepare ourselves for the future. As public spirited individuals, we must abide by the protocol established by the government and offer solutions.


#Divahspriklawnotes #divahsprik #lawnotes #law #lawyersblog

#y2kbug #davideddy #computerprogrammers #virus

0 views

2020. All rights reserved - © DIVAHSPRIK LAWNOTES

THIS SITE IS DEVELOPED BY

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube