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Y2K Interruption: Can the Doomsday Scenario Be Averted?


  • Nabeela Arshad

    (Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Islamabad.)

  • Durr-E-Nayab

    (Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Islamabad.)

  • Arshad J. Minhas

    (The Population Council, Pakistan Office.)


The management philosophy until recent years has been to replace the workers with computers, which are available 24 hours a day, need no benefits, no insurance and never complain. But as the year 2000 approached, along with it came the fear of the millennium bug, generally known as Y2K, and the computers threatened to strike!!!! Y2K, though an abbreviation of year 2000, generally refers to the computer glitches which are associated with the year 2000. Computer companies, in order to save memory and money, adopted a voluntary standard in the beginning of the computer era that all computers automatically convert any year designated by two numbers such as 99 into 1999 by adding the digits 19. This saved enormous amount of memory, and thus money, because large databases containing birth dates or other dates only needed to contain the last two digits such as 65 or 86. But it also created a built in flaw that could make the computers inoperable from January 2000. The problem is that most of these old computers are programmed to convert 00 (for the year 2000) into 1900 and not 2000. The trouble could therefore, arise when the systems had to deal with dates outside the 1900s. In 2000, for example a programme that calculates the age of a person born in 1965 will subtract 65 from 00 and get -65. The problem is most acute in mainframe systems, but that does not mean PCs, UNIX and other computing environments are trouble free. Any computer system that relies on date calculations must be tested because the Y2K or the millennium bug arises because of a potential for “date discontinuity” which occurs when the time expressed by a system, or any of its components, does not move in consonance with real time. Though attention has been focused on the potential problems linked with change from 1999 to 2000, date discontinuity may occur at other times in and around this period.

Suggested Citation

  • Nabeela Arshad & Durr-E-Nayab & Arshad J. Minhas, 1999. "Y2K Interruption: Can the Doomsday Scenario Be Averted?," The Pakistan Development Review, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, vol. 38(4), pages 1037-1056.
  • Handle: RePEc:pid:journl:v:38:y:1999:i:4:p:1037-1056

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