Time Marches Off

The millennium will likely give a lot of people pause--but especially those who run some old software on their computers. They'll have to prepare for the future in their own way because their programs won't be able to cope with a year starting with 20.

Back when storage space was tight, a lot of programmers tried to save a few bytes by assuming the first two digits of a year were always 19. Reader Joseph Warren, a Burlingame (Calif.) computer consultant, warns that the problem is worst in mainframe programs written in the COBOL language, especially accounting or payroll routines. Current off-the-shelf software should handle the new millennium fine, but custom applications written for database managers, such as Borland's dBase, could have problems.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.