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1997-11-04 10:19:41


The Coast Guard Ran into Problems This Year



The U.S. Coast Guard has already encountered a Year 1997 problem. The culprit is its spreadsheet. It works only on Monday and Friday.

* * * * * * * *

3.7.3 On Wednesday 8 Jan 1997, the entire US Coast Guard discovered that its standard Spreadsheet no longer runs on Wednesdays (or Saturdays), and refuses to print files on Tuesdays and Thursdays! Mondays and Fridays are OK, though.

3.7.4 The Coast Guard uses a proprietary Operating System called CTOS, marketed by Unisys. Although most of the software was specifically built for the CTOS environment, some of it was ported over from other operating systems. A program called Ofis Spreadsheet is an amazing clone of Lotus 1-2-3 v2.2, for example. On the above date, everyone noticed that their spreadsheet program no longer worked, giving what amounts to a Windows' General Protection Fault error at start-up. It turns out that the hexadecimal codes that CTOS uses to represent the date added an extra digit with the new year. Apparently, they went from FFFFFFF to 10000000 at some point after New Year's Day.

3.7.5 Unfortunately, some of the non-native applications (the 1-2-3 clone and the Progress db's seem to be the ones in question) can't handle this change elegantly.

3.7.6 Interestingly, although no word has yet been spread on how to solve the anecdotal Progress problems (of which I've seen no sign myself), the solution to the spreadsheet conundrum is to change the date format. Even though the spreadsheet file may not access any date functions, the application *does*, and it doesn't like MM/DD/YY formats from 1997 onwards. But if you change the start-up files to indicate a DD/MM/YY format, the problem goes away...

3.7.7 RISKS: You may be concentrating on a problem (Y2K, which is a major effort in the Coast Guard just now) that is not *quite* as timely as another that is sneaking up on you. Watch out! This sort of embarrassment just might undermine your Y2K efforts. Perhaps, from this time forward, it might be smart to run test systems with clocks set a month or more ahead of schedule. Just in case. I know that I will be.

3.7.8 The source of this information is the Website:


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