The Myth of the
Computer Revolution

Neville Holmes

University of Tasmania



One of the more bizarre and disquieting aspects of the Y2K Problem is the occasional but recurrent journalistic report that depicts a hapless Cobol programmer of 30 or so years ago lighting on the ill-fated notion of leaving the "19" off the year in order to save storage space. Where are journalists getting this idea? Surely they didn’t observe it, so some person or persons in the computing industry must be promoting this misleading (if not pernicious) idea. Indeed there are such people in our industry. Some very recent but hardly isolated evidence appeared in IEEE Computational Science and Engineering (Norris Parker Smith, "The Millennium Is Close At Hand: Stock Up on Zeroes," Apr.-Jun. 1998, pp. 104-C3). Smith writes that in the 1960s "programmers adopted the convention of designating years through two digits rather than four." Of course this statement is not strictly erroneous. The problem is that "adopted" implies "invented at about that time."

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The Myth of the Computer Revolution

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