Nine reasons to relax about Sept. 9th

Summary:You may be worrying that come Sept. 9, 1999, a computer that handles some of your critical data will fail. Relax.

You may be worrying that come Sept. 9, 1999, a computer that handles some of your critical data will fail. The reason is the "Nines Problem," which we examine in this week's special report. If so, relax. There is nothing to worry about - nothing.

The Nines Problem, purportedly the result of programmers using a string of four nines in the date field to signal an application that it has reached the end of its useful life.

Here are the nine reasons you needn't worry about the Nines Problem:

1.) The Nines Problem doesn't exist, except in computer programs written so that they terminate functions on Sept. 9th, 1999. There is virtually no such code in use today.

2.) The Nines Problem, where it does exist, is a mainframe problem. No PC application that will operate on a PC manufactured since 1990 used Sept. 9, 1999 as an end-of-file date.

3.) If there are unremediated Nines Problems in mission-critical applications, they are few and far between. Your chances of having personal data affected by the Nines Problem is statistically lower than your chances of being killed in an automobile crash on Sept. 9th. In the U.S., your chances of dying in a car crash tomorrow are roughly 1:2,342,105.

4.) The chance that an American will have a heart attack on Sept. 9th: 1:65,000. This is also statistically lower than the chance you will have personal data affected by a Nines Problem.

5.) Based on corporate spending, the IT infrastructure of U.S. business has been replaced approximately 2.5 times since 1990. During that time, some applications remained in use throughout the evolution of the systems around it. If these applications have survived, only those intentionally designed to fail on Sept. 9th will do so - most, if not all, such applications would have been replaced by now.

6.) Take a moment to read our Special Report on the Nines Problem—if, after reading this article, you still believe that a date field will produce a string of four nines on Sept. 9th, you probably also believe that you stand a greater chance of being bitten by a vampire than the rest of the population.

7.) Every previous critical Y2K date, including the only date on which a date field could produce the string "9999," have passed without incident.

8.) 160,000 head of cattle in Britain developed Mad Cow Disease, yet the U.K. has the same rate of Cruetzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the human illness caused by eating the meat, as the rest of the world, about one in one million.

9.) There is a cosmological theory that suggests the universe is already collapsing into a vacuum that is rushing toward our galaxy. We can't see it coming, can't know it is coming, until the very instant it hits, at which point we will be obliterated without time to think. Y2K and related problems have been closely followed by IT professionals for the last three to five years, and they can be solved.

If this hasn't helped, take two aspirin and call me on the morning of Sept. 10th, 1999.

Topics: PCs, Hardware, Health

About

Mitch Ratcliffe is a veteran journalist, media executive and entrepreneur. He was editor of the ground-breaking Digital Media newsletter in the 1990s and a frequent contributor to ZDNet over the years. He led development of the first Web audio/video news network at ON24, sat on the board of Electric Classifieds Inc. and Match.com, and wor... Full Bio

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