Legacy systems got high-dollar Y2K repairs

As the legacy user community moves into 2020, it can take comfort in efforts to make its environments date-ready. Some environments were not so lucky. Parking meters, cash registers and a pro wrestling video game have tripped over a date glitch related to the latest bug.

It’s being called the Y2020 bug, this lack of a fix for dates. The bug has taken payment and other computer systems offline. It’s evidence that some date repairs made to legacy systems, created when the systems were not even considered legacy, are much more robust.

Legacy systems were built to express years using two numbers in an effort to save memory. Repairs set out to eliminate the Y2K bug.

This year reveals the caliber of some less-complete repairs. Programmers had two options: entirely rewrite their code, or adopt windowing. Windowing is common on date repairs, especially those for less mission critical systems. The low-grade repairs that are stopping up cash registers treat all dates from 00 to 20 as from the 2000s, rather than the 1900s. By some accounts, up to 80 per cent of applications fixed in 1999 used windowing.

Date issues are out there waiting for all computers, not just legacy systems. The year 2038 has a Unix-based date roadblock, for example. The HP 3000 MPE/iX has a 2028 hurdle, one that some independent software companies have addressed. One solution for the HP 3000 is even being employed by other software providers in the environment.

Windowing was the worst of all possible solutions for dates, because it kicked the problem down the road. The ERP software MANMAN has its own repair capabilities to get users from the MPE/iX world beyond 2028, according to Terry Floyd of The Support Group.

Some environments like MPE/iX handle dates and times as seconds from 1970/01/01. These date systems include the ones in Tru64 and Solaris.

Windowed systems were supposed to be outmoded by this year. Legacy users know better. To their credit, the repairs to their systems recognized the weakness of the windowing fix.

Systems which used this particular fix are  reaching the end of the window and rolling back to 1920. The website New Scientist reports on it. “Utility company bills have reportedly been produced with the erroneous date 1920. Tens of thousands of parking meters in New York City are declining credit card transactions because of the date glitch.”

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

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