Millennium Countdown

Y2K Bug: keep the lights on and your money in the bank

By Raphael Enns
Garden Valley collegiate
Winkler, Manitoba

I know a lot of people believe in the Y2K bug and in the problems that may occur on the turnover from December 31, 1999 to January 1, 2000. These problems, however, will probably not occur.

One big story is that all the computers and everything digital or with a computer chip around the world will crash on January 1, 2000. Though this may happen with a few devices, and in some places more than others, most digital devices will not be effected.

Copyright of Canada's SchoolNet

Let me explain the history of why we have the Y2K bug. When computers were first being built and being used around 50 years ago, they were mainly used for data processing. An example would be the government using computers to store census information and other data. Well, the amount of memory they had to store stuff on back then was very, very small compared to what we have today. So it makes sense to say, let's take of the first 2 digits of "19xx", because they are always "19". With the amount of data that there was, this could save a good deal of space.

Soon larger and larger amounts of memory storage were available, and now it doesn't hurt much to have those two extra digits. But instead of changing every thing to the full four digits, programmers decided to leave them at the last two digits of the year to be compatible with the old data, Everything was like that until a couple of years ago, when people saw their mistake and realized that they could lose a lot of information.

The main problem here is not the actual devices as much as the software or programs running on the computers. Luckily almost all software that is being used now is Y2K-compliant. That means it uses all four digits and that no information will be lost. Most of the big services like banks and electricity are all ready for the year 2000. North America is the most ready for the year 2000. There was a big rush last year to get everything going, but now it has slowed down, and the companies are confident that nothing will go wrong.

Another common belief is that all computers will crash with a Y2K virus. If there was a Y2K virus, it would have to get on your computer the same way as every other virus, namely by sharing files and disks. There is no virus built into your computer that will cause it to crash; it would have to come from somewhere else.

We should have few if any problems at midnight on New Year's Eve 1999. We should be able to keep our money in our banks and go to a party without worrying that the electricity will go out.