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Name: Leonardo
Status: Student
Age: 9
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Around 1999


Question:
Is the Y2K bug going to shut down all the computers?



Replies:
Leonardo,

Computers won't actually shut down with the Y2K bug. Almost all computers will continue to work just fine. What will happen, however, is that some computers will not recognize what year it is. Just like we write the date as 8/31/99, some computers store it that way. In the 1800's, they wrote the date the same way, so really, when you see a date as 8/31/99, you just assume that it is 1999.

Computers do the same thing, but when the date becomes 1/1/00, they will think it is the year 1900, when it really is the year 2000.

For most computers, this won't be a problem. The computers in toaster, cars, radios, etc, don't care what year it is so it won't matter.

What people are worried about are the computers that do use the current date for calculations like computers that control banks, power stations, water plants, and the internet. Since these computers rely on dates to determine how much interest to charge, when to send bills, and things like that, if they get the date wrong in the year 2000, it will cause a lot of problems.

No one really knows how many problems will be caused, but in general, it is almost certain there will be some problems.

Some people believe it will be the end of civilization as we know it. Others think there won't be any noticeable problems at all.

I think there will be some problems, but I also think most of the problems will be simple surprises that are quickly worked out.

For example, if a city loses power, they will just set the clocks back for a week or so until the problem is fixed.

Businesses, like banks, which are affected will do their best to fix the problem as soon as possible, or they will lose a lot of customers, and they don't want that to happen.

The reason I feel the problems will be relatively small, is because it will cost businesses, cities, and states a lot of money to not have tested their computers before the year 2000, and they don't want to lose the money. So most are doing everything they can to make sure they don't lose money when the year 2000 comes.

Thanks,
Eric Tolman
Computer Scientist


No. In fact, it won't shut down any of them. Life would be simpler if it did. The computer would just stop working on January 1, 2000, and then people would wonder why, and come to fix it.

The problem is that the computer DOESN'T shut down, it just gives wrong answers when you ask it questions. But you (the human) may not know they are wrong answers, because you have come to depend on the computer to give you right answers. Then you might be in trouble!

Fortunately, the only computers that will do this are old computers. Unfortunately, these computers can control some interesting things, like whether the electric company thinks you've paid your bill on time or not. Fortunately, none of these computers controls really dangerous things like whether nuclear missiles should be launched.

Dr. Grayce


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