Y2K, it's all my fault

Larry Masinter (masinter@parc.xerox.com)
Fri, 8 Oct 1999 10:55:22 PDT

> Stop it already. You are the problem.

In 1969, I had a summer job programming in Cobol. I worked on the jury
selection system for the courts of Manhattan. The program read in the
voter registration records of everyone registered to vote, and
selected every Nth eligible voter, depending on how many jurors were
needed. Part of the qualification for eligibility was having been
registered to vote in the area for more than a certain amount of
time. I remember writing some code (with a pencil on coding forms)
that computed dates ("years since voter registration" or something),
which computed dates by subtracting the year of registration from the
current year.

I remember vaguely thinking that the program would stop working in
2000. But hey, it was more than 30 years away, and that no one would
be running Cobol programs in 2000, the computers would all be obsolete
and replaced by then, and certainly no one would be using archaic
Cobol, when they could have easily reprogrammed things in ALGOL. We
all believed in the future, then; things would be better in the
future, and all of the current cruft of the world would be replaced
with clean and shiny new future stuff. Also, writing out those
programs on coding forms with a pencil was really a pain, and there
was no way to test anything where the 'current date' was 2000 anyway,
so... why bother?

Anyway, I wanted to apologize. Ever since I heard about Y2K,
I've been feeling guilty. It's my fault.