What's bugging me

Well the second millennium is almost on us. The clock is ticking. I suppose we’ll have to start saying its “tocking” or something after the 31 of December. I’m sure someone has considered this and has probably coined the term already. There must be quite a dictionary of new words and phrases about the millennium by now; “Future-Proof”; “Roll-over-date”; “bug-proofing”; “death-by-hype” and a whole host of things people can get wound up about. It seems the biggest problem with this second millennium is people have forgotten it is the second millennium and that’s only because we started counting 2,000 years ago.

Profits of Doom
However, say what you like, there’s bound to be someone out there cashing in on the New Year. “Get your millennium potatoes here future-proofed to work in your microwave.” The more I see the hype about this new era, the more I get worried about the possible/plausible scams that will be pulled. The garage: “I’m sorry sir, the entire transmission will have to be replaced as it’s incompatible with the chip being used under the bonnet.” The T.V. repairs: “Yes, well…. your video may be ‘future-proofed’ but its not going to give you channel 5 when they start the new 32 bit Teletext. All your pages will have Roman Numerals.”

I can hear them now as they stitch the 2000 jargon into their sales patter and add it to the adverts. “Wash whiter for a better future with a brand that’s trusted to … roll-over”. I think the only thing that will really “roll-over” is poor old Joe public. He’ll be so busy making sure his fountain pen won’t dry up at midnight, he’ll forget to date the cheques correctly.

No one will be safe from the real millennium bug. It won’t come in the form of insufficient digits, it will probably come in the form of too many new digits. Prices will probably have an extra two numbers in front of the .99 so our “future-proofed” products will cost £10.99 instead of the original £0 .99 (after all they’ve been tested for the “roll-over”).

Let’s all get the bug
Why don’t we start cashing in on this new era? Paying out : “Sir, you’ve dated this cheque 1900!” “Oh that’s OK, my bank wasn’t ‘future-proofed’ and they told me to do that after the 31st”. The Bank: Send your old chequebooks back and insist on 2000 compliant cheques. On the buses, “I’m sorry, I don’t have the correct change all my coins are pre-2000.”
 Why not take a black pen to a supermarket and start adding another line to the bar code. That’ll drive ‘em mad.

Don’t take “00” for an answer: Instead of waiting for the automatic heater to die on us at midnight due to lack of foresight on the designer’s behalf ,let’s get out there and really give ‘em the millennium bug. Lets make ‘em get the bugs out of the system and start exploiting this glitch in the system. Ask the DVL for a licence that has four figures on it and not just “00”. They could be using up their old 1900 stock for all we know and their system isn’t “future-proofed”. Insist on buying goods that have sell-by dates as four figures. How do you know the sell-by-date that only has two zero’s isn’t 1900?

The Turin “Shroud”
What about all these programmers that created these problems by just using two digits for a date? This millennium bug is a computer error, not ‘one of those things’. I can’t believe that these program designers didn’t see this problem back in the 80’s. I remember buying programs in the ‘80’s that would give you the day, date and time well into the year 2000. Why then, are some of the big software companies now selling “fixes” for their programs? This is rather like a car company informing you that your two-year old car will stop working on the 31st unless you buy a new steering wheel. It’s about time these computer types got their finger out. If my computer can be built to be aware of local time-changes and language differences, why hasn’t it been programmed to wish me a “Happy New Year” and change all the dates?

The real millennium bug
After all the hype about the millennium bug with aeroplanes falling out of the sky and nuclear missiles ticking over to a count-down it occurs to me that there is one major computer problem that may surface on the 1st of January. Recently the “Computer Virus” front has been rather quiet and no major earth shattering viruses have been mentioned on the Internet. As you know some virus writers like to program “Time-bombs”. “Time-Bombs” are viruses that are programmed to trigger on specific dates.

Hence past viruses like “Chernobyl” or “Michaelangelo’s Birthday” etc., Oddly enough the virus writers don’t pick those names. They are picked by the investigators. However, the virus writers do pick the dates, for various obscure reasons only they know. When you consider it, the millennium ‘roll-over’ is a perfect time to introduce a new virus into the system. What greater accolade could a virus writer have then having his/her virus called “The Millennium Bug”? I hope I’m wrong but perhaps this is a good time to treat all software with some caution.

The Millennium HumBug
Christmas is almost on us, or so the TV adverts would have us believe, and people are once again winding up for a seasonal binge. To add to this we now have the “Ringing in the Millennium” There seems to be a new twist in the celebration rules this year. Hotels and restaurants aren’t offering new Venues for parties; they’re just offering a new time. Lets face it, it’s not theirs to offer. It’s going to arrive anyway and it may be cheaper to stay at home and watch the clock tick over than celebrate it in the same old pub with the same old crowd with the same old music and the new prices.

Recent polls indicate that 60% of the nation are going to celebrate the millennium in their own front rooms having a quiet tot and watching some Scottish folk dancing. I suppose this may prove a bitter disappointment to some of the hype-merchants when they realise that people don’t wish to book ahead for drinks or parties at the new four-digit prices.

I for one will be celebrating the new millennium as I do with every great landmark in the passage of time. I must admit though, that my “Clocks-go-back-an-hour” soiree this year was not as successful as the “Spring-Forward” celebration I threw earlier. The latter didn’t even get started and despite my insistence that the clocks should be adjusted on the stroke of midnight, no one attended and before I knew it, it was 11 p.m. again!

Tempus Fudge-it
Seriously though, aren’t we making a lot of noise about a rather intangible thing, the passage of Time. I mean, we’ve only been here 2000 years (well that’s when we started measuring it). This old planet is billions of years old (using our clocks). The historians will tell you that on Earth’s time scale we’ve only been here about 5 minutes. The dinosaurs had a better innings. Why make a big fuss about the fact we can count to 2000, and, when you think about it, even some of those numbers were ‘fudge’ before Copernicus sorted it out. Have a look at any time-line you like and JC was born in the year 5 BC! They’re still not sure about the age of the Earth . Clarence Darrow would have us believe the first day on Earth was of an indeterminate length (no Sun, Scopes’s Trial). So why are we making such a fuss about the so-called second millennium? Call me when we get to a million.