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In 2038. A big mistake will reveal the fragility of IT


A malfunction that occurred in 2000 without leading to a disaster that was expected caused concern by IT scientists. However, new deficiencies are likely to arise because of the way current operating systems store time.

In a report published in the Swiss newspaper Letemps, denis delbecq said that everyone would be asleep at 03:14:07 on January 19, 2038.

But overtaking this date and time can lead to computer failures, and this will be because of the difficulty of properly representing time in computer and file memory, or as a result of the long-standing disregard for computing, which the famous "2000 problem" was witnessed.
A glitch or a programming problem?

"It wasn't a glitch, it was a programming problem, as no one expected the programs to last for decades," says Gerard Berry, a French computer engineer and an honorary professor at the Collège de France.

The year's inputs in computer software consisted of two digits instead of 4 digits to reduce the memory space used. But in early January 2000, as computers were not programmed to show the whole year, the year's box returned to zero - from 99 to 00 - a flaw that put the world at risk of unprecedented economic disaster.

The united states have spent nearly $100 billion to prevent and overcome the 2000 problem.
Specific date

A similar problem can occur after 38 years, from the first problem, but on a small scale, it will again be about how operating systems and programs store time.

Coding is more accurate than in the last century, but that does not rule out the possibility of a problem of this kind, as the time is represented by the number of seconds elapsed since a specific date of January 1, 1970, at 00:00:00 UTC.

To be accurate decimals, complete numbers, limited in size, are often coded on 32 bits, which seem more than enough. The first of 32 marks represents minus dates before this date, and a plus for the dates that are after them, while the remaining 31 symbols specify seconds.

But the problem is that on this date, it will not be enough to encode 32 bits, to accommodate the total number of seconds, so that the world can witness the turn of the clock, specifically the date of 1901.

To avoid this dilemma, it is enough to encode history on 64 bits, the standard of computer components at present, to postpone the expiration date of the clock back by more than 292 billion years, about 20 times the age of the universe.

To simplify the issue imagine that there is a counter of 32 units, each unit in which the second is stored - except the first unit that stores an extra or minus signal - and the meter was zeroed in 1970 and since then the meter will automatically increase to calculate seconds, but in 2038 the meter will reach its peak and its units will not be able to absorb more seconds, and it needs to increase these units to continue working or the meter will automatically zero the meter so that the meter can work again and this will return in 1991.

This error has been corrected in the most common operating systems, such as Unix, Linux, Windows, and Mac OS, where 64 encodings has been used, but in some programs, such as Mysql databases, the history has remained encrypted at 32 bits.

The same applies to older versions of operating systems, and many computers are integrated into all types of systems that are difficult to update.

This means that they are not immune to problems, as happened with the communication button management system in the rooms of several Swiss hospitals that broke down on January 1, 2019, keeping all the bells heard.

The problem was quickly averted, just as it happened with the iPhone 4 in the United States in the winter of 2010, delaying the alarm for an hour. On January 1 of that year, an error caused more than 20 million payment cards to be banned in Germany for several days.

Loss of control

Perry warned that the consequences of time mismanagement could be tragic. In Dhahran, in February 1991, a U.S. Patriot missile failed to intercept an Iraqi Scud missile, killing 28 soldiers and wounding 98 others. This is due to a malfunction in the management of Patriot time, which required the restarting of the aircraft's computer every four hours.

Another incident occurred in February 2007, in which eight Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets from the U.S. Air Force lost control of the U.S. Air Force's F-22 Raptor as it crossed the International History Change Line west of Hawaii to shut down its vital systems, demonstrating how weak they were.

Perry said time management has become more complex with modern microprocessors, as 20 or 30 years ago it was easy to predict how long it would take to implement the program. Today, with many modifications being made independently within the chips, this is a great undertaking.