The inventor of the technique known as "windowing" is sending out bills for thousands, and in some cases millions, of dollars.
"Windowing" is a quick and cheap solution. It tricks computers into interpreting certain numbers (such as "00" through "29") as belonging to the 21st Century. Larger numbers are interpreted as 20th Century dates.
The Giga Information Group estimates it is used by as many as nine out of ten companies to make sure their systems recognize dates beyond 1999. Few of them are aware that Boeing Co. software developer Bruce Dickens holds the patent.
Now he has begun sending letters to Fortune 500 companies, asking for royalties.
He wants payments based on company revenues, with the price going up 100 times after the first of the year.
That means a company taking in $1 billion a year would have to pay $2.5 million.
Kazim Isfahani, an industry analyst with Giga Information, says he expects the companies will reject the demand for money. He notes that some government agencies used windowing in the 1960s to fix software that used only one digit for the year.