Software has always been very difficult to develop and even more difficult to modify. Witness the billions of dollars being spent by corporations worldwide to upgrade or replace approximately 36 million applications so they will function correctly in the year 2000 (Y2K) and beyond. Those unfamiliar with software development struggle to understand why something as simple as the representation of the year, a four digit number comprehended by most kindergarten children, can wreak such havoc on software. Given software's difficulty in handling the Y2K issue, it is even more amazing that brand new computer programming languages like Java can help accomplish such feats as bringing color images back from a small toy-like rover on Mars and allow them to be displayed on our PCs at home a few minutes later.
Many people think the Y2K problem is a one-time occurrence in the history of software. This is not at all so. Some other similar software problems include:
Around the year 2015, the phone system is projected to run out of three-digit area codes, requiring changes to approximately 25 million applications
In 1999, European countries switched over to a new universal currency, the euro, for non-cash transactions. By mid-2002, the use of the euro will be expanded to include cash transactions. These changes will impact approximately 10 million applications.
On August 21, 1999, the Global Positioning System (GPS) week-counter will rollover. GPS keeps track of dates by recording the number of weeks from midnight on January 5, 1980 using a modulo 1024 approach. This will impact approximately 250,000 applications.
Around the year 2075, United States social security numbers, based on a nine digit number, are expected to run out. Approximately 15 million applications use social security numbers and would be impacted by this.