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The new Y2K bug is expected in 2038: explanations

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More than 20 years ago, computer systems were threatened by the famous Y2K bug. What was feared was a widespread crash of computers during the passage of the year 2000. 'year 1999 to year 2000. Why ? Old systems were designed to represent years with two digits: 97 for 1997, 98 for 1998, etc.

After the year 1999, there were fears of bugs, since time would no longer be represented correctly (00 could correspond to the year 1900, and not 2000). The disaster was averted, since the systems were updated. However, at the time, in the United States alone, year 2000 changes to computer systems would have cost the government and businesses $100 billion.

Why the next “bug” is expected in 2038 ?

In 2038, a comparable “bug” is expected, still because of how time is represented on computers. The year 2038 bug concerns software using the UNIX representation of time. In this representation, time is expressed in the number of seconds elapsed since January 1, 1970 at midnight, universal time. For example, the time when I am writing this article corresponds to UNIX time 1713737958, or 1713737958 elapsed since January 1, 1970.

The problem with this system is that, if time is coded on 32 bits, it can no longer be counted after the 2 147 483 647th second (the maximum number that can be expressed with 32 bits). And the date that corresponds to UNIX time 2 147 483 647 is January 19, 2038 at 3:14:07 a.m. universal time. After this date, there is an overflow.

This problem was also highlighted when the Gagnam Style clip exceeded 2 147& nbsp;483 647 views on YouTube. The platform's view counter was coded in 32 bits, and had to be updated to 64 bits, in order to count the 2 147 483 648th views of PSY.< /p>

The 64-bit solution

The good news is that many systems have already moved to 64-bit (which allows more numbers to be stored to represent time) or are in the process of transitioning. For example, with the macOS Catalina update released in 2019, Apple stopped supporting 32-bit apps, only supporting 64-bit apps. Furthermore, solutions are even being put forward to allow 32-bit systems to survive in 2038.

However, as a Zdnet article specifies, it is possible that in 2038, embedded systems or connected objects which have not been updated with respect to this bug will still be in use . And it could still cause disruption. It is also possible that companies, thinking that their products will no longer be used by 2038, will not make any changes.

  • After the Y2K bug, a similar problem is expected in 2038
  • Indeed, after January 19, 2038 at 3:14:07 a.m., it will no longer be possible for machines to represent time with a 32-bit integer
  • The good news is that systems are already switching to 64-bit, which allows more digits to be stored to represent time
  • The bug could nevertheless affect old devices, still in use, which have not been updated for this bug

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116