y2k stuff

From: Huw Davies <H.Davies_at_latrobe.edu.au>
Date: Wed Jan 6 00:07:30 1999

At 05:25 PM 04-01-99 -0700, Jim Strickland wrote:
>What boggles the mind is that this is a problem at all. It seems hard to
>believe (in retrospect) that people really did deliberately build software
>with only 2 digit years. I know it saved a few bytes, and yes, I remember
>when a byte of memory was a significant amount, but still. How did standard
>programming practice come to be so short sighted as to assume that software
>infrastructure would be thrown out and replaced on a regular basis?

Well as someone who worked on a major software project (a Student Records
System) in the early 1980s in which we made the very deliberate decision
not to include the '19' in all our dates the reasoning was simple. We had a
system (a VAX-11/780) which had 1.25Mb of main memory and two 60Mb disk
drives (subsequently upgraded to an RA81 (450Mb) which I seem to recall
cost something like $60K). Memory (both disk and RAM) was in short supply
and the savings of two bytes per student record that involved dates (we had
about 20K students on file and I guess each student had about 100 records
with dates in them) was considered sufficiently significant to make that

In retrospect, with 2020 hindsight was this a good thing? Well, probably
no, and I'm certainly glad that the system has been retired (although
updating it wouldn't be that bad). To answer the obvious question as to why
we didn't use VMS date/time internally, one of the project specifications
was that we had to use readable data (ie letters and digits) for all files
to allow easy migration (and debugging).

 Huw Davies | e-mail: Huw.Davies_at_latrobe.edu.au
 Information Technology Services | Phone: +61 3 9479 1550 Fax: +61 3 9479 1999
 La Trobe University | "If God had wanted soccer played in the
 Melbourne Australia 3083 | air, the sky would be painted green"
Received on Wed Jan 06 1999 - 00:07:30 GMT

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