Reusable code has been a Holy Grail in the IT business for donkeys' years but it seems people have finally settled for a halfway-house: reusable coders. Organisations are looking into the 21st century and what they see persuades them, apparently, that mainframe experience is going to be needed.
The heart of the Y2K problem is that years have been recorded for decades as two digits. Windowing isolates the two-digit code and compares it to another pair of digits known as the "pivot" year. Let's say that the pivot is 50. If the year is greater than 50, the program assumes the date belongs to the 20th century. If it is less, it must accompany a 21st century record.
At first glance it should work well enough until 2050. At that point, if an organisation still has records from the 20th century all it needs to do is advance the pivot year.
On closer examination, though, the strategy is flawed. Do organisations still have all the source code and documentation? If not, can they be sure of finding all the date-processing references?
It also assumes that systems work in isolation, which is seldom true.
Data is passed between applications and companies. It might be subject to comparison with different pivot years and then behave very unpredictably.
The other projected source of demand for ancient skills also involves Windows. According to ICL, "older staff with traditional mainframe and enterprise computing skills will be in great demand as companies move to NT for their enterprise operating system".
"The older, more experienced staff with traditional enterprise-scale skills understand the real enterprise issues and are more likely to ensure a successful implementation," Peter Slavid, business strategy manager at ICL, is quoted as saying.
Ian Bramley, chairman of the Enterprise NT management forum and director, Butler Group comments: "There is no way that deployment of NT can safely be tackled by those whose experience is limited to the Microsoft desktop or small servers world."
NT must truly be a wonderful big-systems operating system for this to be worthwhile. Whatever else it is, though, it is the product of programmers.
It would be a remarkable product if it didn't generate more work for more programmers.
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