Was the Y2K Problem Properly Fixed?

Remember the worldwide panic in computer programming circles in the months leading up to Y2K? The so-called “millennium bug” was going to scramble the world’s computers, knock programs and systems offline, freeze bank accounts, and generally wreak havoc on otherwise orderly computer operations.

The "Y2K problem" resurfaced in January 2020.
The "Y2K problem" resurfaced in January 2020.

The problem stemmed from the way years had been coded with two-digit designations. The fear was that when we got to the year 2000, the "00" would revert everything back to 1900.

Instead of finding a permanent solution, however, many programmers kicked the can down the road and created a 20-year fix. Long story short, the Y2K problem reemerged in January 2020, creating glitches in systems ranging from parking meters and cash registers to video games.

In preparation for the year 2000, programmers could have re-written code entirely, but many used a quick fix called “windowing” instead. This temporary solution regards all dates from '00 to '20 as from the 2000s, rather than the 1900s. But now that we've reached that 2020 threshold, the dates in some systems are reverting back 100 years.

The return of Y2K:

  • Around 80 percent of computers fixed in 1999 used the quicker, cheaper fix. The theory was that these windowed systems would be outmoded by the time 2020 arrived, but many are still in use. Programmers are anticipating potential problems arising again in the year 2038.

  • As a result of the "Y2020 bug," some utility bills have reportedly been produced with an erroneous date of 1920.

  • Likewise, tens of thousands of parking meters in New York City have declined credit card transactions because of the date glitch.

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