For those searching for more information about the Year 2038 Bug, welcome to our humble website. Due to the number of visits for this search term I've decided to add a quick explanation about the Year 2038 bug for all those who are curious about it.
What is the Year 2038 Bug - The Year 2038 Bug is the name for a potential problem with computer clocks in the Year 2038. More precisely, at 1/19/2038 at 3:14:07 Universal Time Counter (UTC) time. If the bug is not corrected, computer system clocks will reset and show a date in the past, Friday, 13 December 1901.
Why is that date and time a bug - The date and time themselves are not the real problem. The problem is because of how computers keep track of date and time. Computers do not have all of the senses that living things do for tracking time. We humans can see the changes in morning, noon, twilight and night, changes in the moon, changes in the season and changes over years. From these observations we gradually built up methods to track these patterns and create calendars and clocks.
Computers are programmed by humans and can track time but they do not have external sensors that duplicate human observations of natural events. Computers use an internal clock to schedule software operations so they occur in order and at the right time. This means that when you enter a formula into an Excel sheet you get the answer you expected instead of snippets of text from the Word document you are editing at the same time.
It is convenient to use the computer clock to also display human dates and times. Computers have been programmed to track calendar dates and times in the same way that humans do. The computer clock information is translated to human time so we have an easier time reading it. There are values stored in memory that are used for these calculations. Early computers had limited capacity for storing this information so humans programmed computers with workarounds for tracking time. The Year 2038 bug involves one of these workaround methods.
Each computer has an internal timer that measures CPU cycles and can be mapped to human time tracking systems such as clocks and calendars. The difference is that a computer clock measures time elapsed within itself and not time elapsed from the real world. Therefore a computer needs to have a starting date and time and it will add the value of its internal time to that start to generate a date and time that matches human calendars and clocks.
The cause of the Year 2038 bug is computers have a limited amount of space to store the number they add to the starting date. The starting date is an arbitrary number, the date of 1/1/1970, 00:00:00 UTC and for many years the maximum value number computers could add was 2,147,483,648 seconds to that starting date. When 2,147,483,648 seconds is added to 1/1/1970 00:00:00 UTC the maximum value is 1/19/2038 3:14:07 UTC.
Why is this a problem right now - This bug is a problem because of our dependence on computer timekeeping for many software applications. When the maximum amount of time is reached, the computer clock may appear to go backward because the operating system and software do not understand.
While the date is now 16 years in the future, there are problems showing up now because software is storing data associated with dates that occur after 1/19/2038. An example is a 30 year mortgage. When mortgage companies are calculating payments out to 2052, the bug could cause the payments to not calculate correctly. Or it might calculate negative payments, i.e. the bank paying the customer.
What's the fix - There are currently efforts in various parts of software development to develop patches for the bug in operating systems and software. Part of the fix is hardware, we now have access to 64 bit computers instead of 32 bit. Computers using 64 bit memory have the ability to add a larger number to the starting date. This pushes the possible error date into the future. With new computers with 64 bit architecture, they will be able to push the problem to 292 billion years from now. However, I suspect that 292 billion years from now, if humans still use computers, there will be a new Year 2,147,485,547 bug (when using western calendars) that programmers will be worrying about patching on their quantum/22,147,483,647 bit computers
For those who are interested in other ways that bugs can be introduced and their possible impacts on our world, the following serial story provides is an adventure that explores what might happen if computers didn't work and what people might do to fix it. I plan to finish the story at some point, in the meantime, I hope you enjoy the following bit of fiction.
Year 2038 Bug Story Summary
It’s the year 2038 and computers are a foundation for civilization. After two Cyber Wars, the world is recovering and preparing to fix the latest problem, the Year 2038 bug. If the bug isn’t fixed, computers will suddenly set time back to January 1st, 1970 and many computer transactions, such as bank transactions, will fail. On January 19th, 2038, it looks like the world has successfully fixed the problem, but when the computer clocks reach 1/19/2038 03:14:07 UTC, the world is plunged into darkness. All modern electronic fail and with them, the underlying infrastructure, for water, electricity, internet, and transportation also fail. Nine billion people have been plunged into the time before modern conveniences.
The book Year 2038 Bug follows Deidre, Marie, Brian and Jake as they try to cope in this new world while trying to fix the computers. At the same time Gabrielle, head of Faith Cyber Security Trusted Network division, is working against them, to keep all electronics shut off so Earth can recover from human damage. Both sides race to get control of electronics while navigating the chaos of people trying to survive in a world without computers.
Enjoy this serial novel as a new chapter is published each month. First chapter published in May 2017.
Note: Work is currently in hiatus, awaiting a rewrite of two characters and completing the story after the rewrite.