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Friday, December 31, 2010

Y2K All Over Again

A calendar that commemorates year 1 of the
Republic of China (the Minguo calendar)
featuring Sun Yat-sen as provisional leader.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Remember the stress and panic eleven years ago when the West faced the millennium change?  Because of our practice of abbreviating four digits to two, we had no idea what our computers would do with the rollover from "99" to "00".  Worldwide, organizations began corrective actions to ensure that on December 31 of the final year of the last century we could "party like it's 1999".

Well, this time it's Asia's turn to worry.  In 1912 when the Chinese emperor was deposed by the Nationalists, they began a new calendar, and year 1 of the Minguo calendar started it off.  Next year (tomorrow; 2011) will be Minguo 100, and officials don't know what their computers will do with a three-digit year.  (This wasn't a problem when the years changed to two digits since it was far from the "computer age".)  This Minguo calendar is still used by Taiwan today.

Known as the Y1C problem, it is likely to be only a problem for the government, as the private sector uses the Gregorian calendar.  Some government computers already use a three-digit systems for dates, placing a zero in front of numbers below 100.

This isn't just Taiwan's problem, it's North Korea's problem as well.  The Democratic People's Republic in 1996 declared that 1912 was the first year of the Juche calendar, to commemorate the birth of Kim-Il Sung.  Their linux system displays only two digits, but although little is known about their operations it is generally thought there are not a significant number of computers.

Let's hope their problems, if any, be mild.  To all the world I wish a healthy and prosperous new year!

Image by New Evolution Designs.

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