Never mind the millennium, the first major date crisis is coming up next Thursday when the 9999 bug strikes some older computer systems.
The date could trigger the 9/9/99 problem, caused by programmers using 9999 as end of file markers or to represent a null value.
Bob Hammersley, IT services manager for Sainsbury's, said: "We found on some of our older systems that we had a problem with all dates in 1999."
Affected systems at Sainsbury's included the warehousing and logistics system, he said, pointing out the problems were spotted in 1998, as part of the retailer's Year 2000 programme.
For many companies 9 September will be the first real pointer to their Year 2000 readiness and reaction procedures. If older systems struggle to cope with the 9/9/99 date, they could have similar problems on 31 December.
Files in early computer applications were often date sequenced and programmers would often use 9999 as end of file markers on the assumption that the systems would be replaced long before the date actually arrived.
If an application encounters that valid date while reading a file, it may assume incorrectly that it has processed all the records in a file.
There's probably no need to panic, however. Rob Wilson, assistant director of independent watchdog Taskforce 2000, cautioned against placing too much emphasis on the '99' issue.
"This is only going to affect older mainframe type systems, while Year 2000 will affect everything," he said. "The 9999 issue is just a drop in the ocean."
For more stories see this week's issue of Computing
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