Programmer wants Y2K fix payback

Case could open floodgates to claims by other programmers

A 49-year-old California computer programmer who patented a widely used Y2K fix is now hoping to get a slice of the estimated $600bn (£372bn) that US businesses have spent fixing the problem.

Bruce Dickens, who works for Boeing, developed a very commonly used "windowing" technique for making computers Y2K compliant more than 20 years ago. Now he is asking US companies that used the technique to pay him for the privilege.

Windowing enables computers to recognise the digits "00" as the start of the next century rather than the beginning of this one effectively by splitting the numbers 00 to 99 into two categories. The method has become one of the most popular methods for fixing the millennium bug, and if Dickens is successful in his claim, he may be in line for many millions of dollars. Other programmers have patented some 30 other year 2000 remedies, and if Dickens' case is successful they could also start reaping the rewards.

At the moment Dickens is only targeting companies that net more than $1bn a year, and his lawyer has told the press that his requested cut is "in the grand scheme of things... pocket change".

Take me to the Year 2000 Special.