Foreign Y2K Situation

I read with interest everything Robert Carroll posts about the year 2000 on his Skeptic’s Dictionary web site. His November 27 article lists several countries and cultures that use different calendar systems but what I’m trying to figure out is if they also use their calendars in their computer systems. Is it hubris on our part to assume every computer in the world is on the Gregorian calendar? Or does America so thoroughly dominate the computer industry that every business in every country has to follow our lead if they hope to keep up? What I’m saying is, if I’m in Egypt and I want to book a flight so that I land in New York on December 10, 1999, will the Muslim ticket person at the Egyptian airline give me a ticket dated 1999 or 1420?

I’m trying to address the concerns that some of my co-workers seem to have that the computers of every country that has nukes aimed at us will crash on New Year’s Eve which will automatically launch all of the nukes and blast us to Kingdom Come. Which I guess raises a whole nuther question: if their computers crash, why do people assume the nukes will fire at all or, if they do, that their guidance systems will work? When my computer crashes, it doesn’t automatically do anything except freeze or maybe beep. Is it just xenophobic paranoia, or is there a real reason to be concerned?

What is the Straight Dope on the foreign Y2K situation?

“I hope life isn’t a big joke, because I don’t get it,” Jack Handy

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Your ticket in Egypt will say 1999. All airline reservation systems (well, most) are able to communicate with each other and so need to use a standard date format. The date used is called the PARS date and is based on the number of days since December 30, 1963. (Notice that this means that the dates in the reservation systems never had to worry about the Y2k bug).

I have no idea as to the validity of the nuke concern, but here is the scenario that is being reported… Supposedly everybody’s missiles (ours, theirs and everyone else’s) are in constant contact with their command base. They are (again, supposedly) supposed to launch automatically if they are ever out of contact with their base for more than some length of time; the theory being that if the command base was destroyed the missiles would launch in retaliation.

The Y2K concern is that all of the missiles will suddenly think they have been out of contact with their base for 100 years and will launch on their own.

“Drink your coffee! Remember, there are people sleeping in China.”

Dennis Matheson —
Hike, Dive, Ski, Climb —

You’d have to be a looney toon to think any government would have such an automated launch system as described.

Mechanical, electronic and software failures are possible regardless of the Y2k bug, and no one is going to risk Armaggedon with such a scheme.

I didn’t say I believed it; I was just reporting the scenario being pushed by the Y2K doomsayers. The idea has gotten a lot of airplay on the Art Bell show, which is where it is spreading.

“Drink your coffee! Remember, there are people sleeping in China.”

Dennis Matheson —
Hike, Dive, Ski, Climb —

Well, I can’t think of any better source for Straight Dope than Art. :wink: With any luck the errant nukes will wipe out all the chupacabras and we’ll be better off for it.

It’s your fault that I have no one to blame but myself.

To the original point of the OP:

IBM, Digital, and HP have never had the time, money, or inclination to write separate operating systems for myriad calendar systems. The hardware and the operating systems are all pretty well established as using the Gregorian Calendar. Since the issue had to do with a two-digit year being the only choice available to the operating system, I suspect that devout Iranians were quite happy to accept that premise. Dating from the Hegira would have made 1997, (for example), year 1375 which could only have been entered to the operating system as “75”.

This might have given them room to postpone the problem for 23 years, but the problem would not go away–and meanwhile they would have had to impose English dating techniques (with translations) onto the existing reports.


Not to mention the differences in lengths of months, number and order of months, and length of year…

I think it is reasonable to believe that all computers work on the Gregorian calendar, with software to translate to other dates as needed.

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams

Maybe someone can post for me the world sequence that year 2000 comes in. In other words, what country gets year 2000 first, whos next, etc? That way we could sit here & watch what happens before it gets to us in USA.

I think the russkies next to the Bering Strait are going to see it first, then some small South Pacific islands, then Fiji and New Zealand, then the first palce of real military significance, Kamchatka, more islands, then Australia, New Guinea, Japan, China…ought to know something by then.