It seems as though one can't look anywhere without seeing the end-of-the-century problem mentioned. The date change, best known as the Y2K problem (from December 31, 1999 to January 1, 2000), has many companies scrambling to make sure that the computers they use aren't going to cause any major failures. This issue was originally one that the general public was not aware of. Somewhere along the line, the media caught wind of the situation, and they're now going a long way toward putting fear into people's minds. Is it justified? Will it affect us? Will it affect our Amigas?
The Y2K problem involves computer programs, especially those written for mainframe use, which save the date as a two-digit code. If a computer looks at the number 95, then it automatically see "1995." This was done to conserve both memory and storage. Saving two bytes might not seem like much, but when a program is dealing with a million records' worth of data, the bytes add up quickly. The savings that this made are said to have been substantial.
Contrary to popular belief, this problem didn't just get noticed recently. Programmers have always known about it. Many people use the excuse that the programmers wrote the programs poorly, but that isn't true. I have talked to programmers who wrote code in the 1960s, and who've said that the management at the time just didn't care. They figured that it was impossible for these programs to still be in use 30 years later. Well, here we are, thirty years later, and the companies are now sweating bullets.
How could this problem affect us? Some say that it won't have any affect. These people believe that all the programs will be fixed in time, or that the resulting problems won't have any lasting effect. On the other hand, there are groups of people who think that this is going to be the end of the world as we know it. These people think that there will be no electricity or water, banks will fail and civilization will collapse. I don't subscribe to either of these situations. I believe in the middle ground: There will be some problems, but the world will continue on with, at most, a small ripple in day-to-day life.
The media would have it that if your personal computer isn't Y2K-compliant, it will fail to operate altogether on January 1, 2000. This idea stems from the fact that some computers will not boot if the current date is earlier than a certain operating-system date. This is not a fabrication, though it might sound like one. I have read that some early Macintosh computers will have this problem. I'm sure that it isn't limited to the Mac, but it will certainly not affect your Amiga computer. If you wake up on January 1, all dreary-eyed after a long night out celebrating the new millennium, expecting no problems when you turn on your Amiga to write a letter to dear old Grandma, you'll have no problems. There will be no date-related boot problems.
Will our Amiga computers ever be affected by this problem? Depending on which version of the AmigaOS you are running, the answer could be "Yes." Amiga, Inc. set up a web page to comply with the Information and Readiness Disclosure Act of 1998, a U.S. statute enacted on October 19, 1998. I will summarize Amiga Inc's article below. To read the complete document, visit Amiga, Inc. online at:
In a similar fashion to how Unix sets the correct time (but not the way any human would), AmigaOS measures time in the number of seconds that have elapsed since January 1, 1978 (known as the "epoch"). The Amiga did not have a way for the programmer to convert the number of seconds passed since the epoch until AmigaOS 2.0 was introduced. Thus, older software that was created with a less-than-perfect conversion process may not function correctly. It is important to note that this is not the fault of AmigaOS.
If there's no battery-backed clock in your Amiga, and you don't enter the current time upon system start-up, then AmigaOS gets the time from the most recent file on your boot volume. This obviously does not lead to an accurate clock; and if there's no file available for reference, the default time is January 1, 1978.
When the time is set from AmigaDOS, it is entered in a two-digit format. This might lead you to believe that 00 means 1900, but it doesn't! This is because the Amiga uses the following rules in all versions of AmigaDOS, and Versions 1.1 through 1.3 of the Workbench GUI:
This means that the Amiga has no truly equivalent Y2K problem to that of, say, an IBM clone. The year can be set from 1978-2077. The Workbench 2.0 clockeditor allows dates within the range of 1978-2113. Workbench 2.1 allows dates within 1991-2099.
Of course, that just had to be too good to be true. From the above information, it would seem that we Amiga owners have nothing to worry about until 2077. But that isn't the case. There are four errors that might occur; two only affect certain releases of the OS.
While AmigaOS will be pretty safe until 2046, that doesn't mean that all of the software you are using is compliant. It just means that the operating system is okay. It is important to remember that not all software uses the system date in the first place.
The only way to be sure that you are safe from problems is to go through the software that you use and try entering dates that might not be compliant. If an error occurs, then it is time to upgrade that software.
The people at Commodore did an admirable job of keeping us Amiga users relatively safe from the year-2000 bugs; but in the end, it is up to you to assess whether or not your Amiga is Y2K-compliant.