What Effect will the Millennium Bug have on Society?
People talk about the Millennium Bug, but few actually know what it is and how big an effect is could have. Virtually everything is our society is vulnerable, from water and electricity to our phone bills and savings accounts. The Millennium Bug is a design fault dating back to the early days of computers and the way they store time and date. When you turn on your computer it knows the time and date thanks to a built in clock which memorises the date in the form of month/day/year. The problem is that when we go from 99 to 00 many computers won’t know whether this means the year 1900, 2000 or the year that the computer was created. This may cause havoc on society, especially now we are so reliant on computers in our everyday lives. As a result the Millennium Bug may cause major concerns in health, unemployment, our finance system and personal safety.
Life and death situations could arise as hospital systems such as, life support and machines used to monitor a patients vital signs are among the systems at risk. Australian hospitals believe that as many as 60% of their machines may not work properly when the date rolls over. Local testing has identified the ultrasound machines and central monitors which have exhibited year 2000 failures. There could be significant threats to personal safety, for example if an ultrasound wrongly calculated the size of a faetus or administered radiation therapy incorrectly. Also people with heart pace makers could face the possibility of them failing.
Bank accounts could be wiped off the records and ATM’s could swallow cards thought to be expired. Computers controlling home loans could strip banks off millions of dollars by resetting mortgage repayment programs back to 1900. Millions of dollars are being poured into rectification programs, by financial institutions. Now the Australian Stock Exchange will only licence dealers with year 2000 compliance. Another danger of the Millennium Bug is that those who are on the phone during the switch over could be charged for a 99 year phone call costing them anywhere up to $12,000,000.
Unemployment is one of the biggest problems in society today and the Millennium Bug will make the situation worse. Small to medium sized businesses
may close when the time bomb goes off, due to the lack of funds to prevent the bug. Corporations such as Telstra and AMP are also looking at organisations that are not profitable enough to spend the money on and will close them down. As a result there could be wide spread unemployment and recession, not only here in Australia but worldwide. Also businesses simply don’t want to cough up money to fix something that hasn’t happened yet.
Another major issue is the disasters the bug may cause. Catastrophes could occur in the air if air traffic control systems fail. KLM Royal Dutch airlines has said it will not fly to certain destinations during the change over period. Both QANTAS and Ansett have established teams to look at all programs operated by their computers. Neither expects their services to be disrupted. Airlines such as British airways are so confident that the bug will have no effect on their systems, they are all going to fly in one of their planes during the change over period. On the ground computer sequenced traffic lights could have traffic in turmoil causing accidents and disruptions.
Just as the clock is about to tick over, everyone will be focused on Australia due to the time difference. If the bug causes any kind of grief Australia will be one of the first places affected. So we could be spending trillions of dollars world wide for no reason or our computers could fail and we could suffer a financial and life threatening break down. No one will know the bugs full power till January 1st 2000. We shouldn’t worry just yet because people such as Bill Gates are working on a solution a this very moment. Even though we have approximately 295 days till the bug goes off we shouldn’t take it for granted, because we don’t fully understand it and that’s when things can really go wrong.