Data Archival (OT Long)

From: Sellam Ismail <>
Date: Tue Dec 12 10:57:38 2000

On Tue, 12 Dec 2000, Jerome Fine wrote:

> Then why do we look at Egyptian literature, some of which is now 5000
> years old. I realize that not everyone is interested, but if the work
> is being done to make the programs Y2K compliant and it takes only
> double the effort to make them Y10K compliant, it was that same
> attitude that led to the Y2K problems in the first place. What I am

I guess I'm wondering why it should matter what the date data structure is
in 8,000 years. I cannot see any practical purpose for it. I guess what
you're saying is "we don't know what the practical purpose is, and the
effort required to extend the date beyond 4 digits is minimal so why not
take the little effort to do it?"

If that's the case then, sure, I can agree with that. But will people in
the future have the need to actually run our operating systems and have
the dates be able to accomodate their current time? Won't they simply be
viewing what we have as artifacts to be documented on their then current
computing systems?

Will there even be computers in 8,000 years? We've only had them for 50,
and look how far they've come. Will they even resemble what we consider
today to be computers? You can make an analogy such as "well, the
Egyptians had papyrus and a stylus, and we have paper and pen, so
computers will be fundamentally the same." But this analogy just does not
apply when it comes to computers and electronics. And then you throw
genetic engineering into the mix and your head starts to hurt.

> imagine the surprise when the current date is actually working -
> assuming that the current Common Era calendar is even understood.

Exactly. That's a big assumption. And again, why would that be
practical? It would be novel perhaps. Whatever is supposed to pass as a
human in 8,000 years would think (if in fact they have processes that we
consider today to be "thinking") "how clever these ancestors of ours were,
making their systems compliant with our current day calendars". Or they
might think "why did these silly creatures bother making their pathetic
'computers' able to render dates so far into the future?" Or they might
think "!3nk n;)PN uoiK86w4hj8 ./}}PIOUo75 K&Br".

> I doubt that we will all have left the planet. The alternative is
> that we will have bombed or otherwise gutted ourselves back to the
> stone age. Will that then qualify as a topic that is over ten years
> old? Like going back to the future?

I hope I've left the planet before this has happened.

> Seriously, however, the point I am trying to make is that the technical
> problems that need to be solved are the same whether the date is extended
> to 31-Dec-2999 or 999,999-Dec-31. Once there are a few extra bits
> around to handle another 900 years, another million years is trivial except
> for the display aspects. The internal bits used to record the date need

I don't even think we'll even have a problem by 2038 to tell you the
truth. Look at what's happened to computers since 1962. Now project that
forward 38 more years and try to imagine how pointless this discussion
will have been.

> only 4 more bits for the year 2999, but it is just as easy the use 2 bytes
> which then allows years up to at least 4,000,000 in the future. As I
> understand the VMS time value, there is room to use dates up to about
> the year 25,000 - so the only problem will be the display format for
> a very long time - unless the code does not allow for leap years. Since
> old versions of VMS are over 10 years old, I think this discussion is
> still on topic - how long old code will still function - the same topic as
> how long old hardware will still function.

Jerome, go outside and take a breath of fresh air once in a while :)

Sellam Ismail Vintage Computer Festival
International Man of Intrigue and Danger
Received on Tue Dec 12 2000 - 10:57:38 GMT

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