Subject: Re: Y2K
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1998/05/21
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Scott L. Burson
| Why do you think they stored so much numeric data in BCD?  It's because
| they printed numbers more frequently than they did arithmetic on them,
| and it was not worth it for them to pay the price of binary-to-decimal
| conversion in order to print them out (whether that price was primarily
| time, or involved a space cost for lookup tables of some sort).

  um, no, they stored numeric data in BCD because the earlier computers
  were designed to use decimal arithmetic, and when they moved to binary,
  they _still_ had BCD arithmetic hardware.  binary didn't have much to
  offer these people.  however, BCD vanished.  now, why was _that_?

| Remember that these people were processing large volumes of data on
| machines some of which would have made a Z-80 look powerful.

  yet there was support for BCD arithmetic in the Zilog Z80, too.

| Supposing it existed, though, the only way to get it universally used (or
| nearly) would have been to make it a primitive type in COBOL.  And if it
| wasn't used universally, it would hardly have been used at all, because
| people need to be able to exchange data.

  precisely, and the lack of a sane DATE type in COBOL is supposedly to
  blame for 95% of the Y2K problem.  go figure...

| I'm not saying that more advance thought about the problem might not have
| been beneficial.  But I don't think it's fair to portray the decision
| programmers faced then as trivial, and the choice they made as completely
| idiotic.

  nonono, I don't think the decision they made was idiotic.  I think they
  did not make a decision -- it was nowhere near anybody's conscious mind
  to regard century boundaries in the middle of the century -- everybody in
  question were born in this century at the time, an most of them would die
  in this century, so who _could_ have cared?  I think it is foolish to
  impute decisions to them 30-40-50 years after the fact, the anachronistic
  speculations are just that.  Aaron Gross points out (in mail) that none
  of these statements about the purported decisions are actually backed up
  by actual quotes from people who supposedy made them.  that's enough to
  disregard them, IMNSHO.

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