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The Millennium Bug: its Origin, Potential Impact and Possible Solutions

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Feng Li


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Back in the 1960s and 1970s, computer programmers commonly identified each calendar year by its last two digits to save internal memory and disk space. However, this practice has made it impossible to identify the year 2000: computers reading only the last two digits of the year will either treat it as 1900 or shut down completely. The potential consequences can be catastrophic, given that a high proportion of the world’s essential services are now controlled by computers. This is known as the ‘Year 2000 (Y2K) problem’, or the ‘Millennium Bug’. Many of the bug’s effects are already being felt today. Eradicating the bug involves not only many complex technical problems but also numerous practical constraints and operational difficulties. It requires the full involvement of top management and has to be addressed at the strategic level. The effort to solve this problem is now seriously behind schedule, and urgent action is needed to recover the lost ground. However, this is happening against a background of limited IT resources and an ever-increasing demand on IT staff in most organisations. The purpose of this paper is to describe the Year 2000 problem and explore its potential scale and impact if not resolved in time. From an information management perspective, the complex program coding options and techniques and software tools needed to resolve the problem will also be reviewed, and some relevant management and organisational issues will be discussed. An important lesson from this is that some decisions may seem ‘rational’ under the circumstances of a particular period, but when the circumstances change, these decisions can have profound, unintentional, long-term consequences. Therefore, rational decision making must take into account not only the pros and cons of the decision for the current period, but also for the long term.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Li F, Williams H, Bogle M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Information Management

Year: 1999

Volume: 19

Issue: 1

Pages: 3-15

Print publication date: 30/04/1999

ISSN (print): 0268-4012

ISSN (electronic): 1873-4707

Publisher: Pergamon


DOI: 10.1016/S0268-4012(98)00043-7


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