Hal Berghel:

Review of Capers Jones: "The Year 2000 Software Problem: quantifying the costs and assessing the consequences", ACM Press/Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., New York, NY, 1997, 335 pp., $29.95, ISBN 0-201-30964-5.

Capers Jones contributes an very informative and readable addition to the literature on the Year 2000 Problem (aka, millenia problem, millenia bug, Y2k problem). While this book is primarily intended for business audiences, it will also be of broad appeal to under-informed technologists who want to be able to place the Y2k problem in an economic and social perspective. The numbers reported by Jones are staggering, but more on that in a moment.

The book consists of fifteen chapters and five appendices. The chapters are entitled:

  1. 1. Executive Overview
  2. 2. Origins of the Y2k problem
  3. 3. Terms and concepts
  4. 4. Function Points vs. Lines of Code Metrics
  5. 5. The Size of the Y2K Problem for the U.S.
  6. 6. Testing, Test Case Errors and Repairing Software Regression Test Libraries
  7. 7. Repairing Databases, Repositories and Data Warehouses
  8. 8. Litigation and Liability Potential
  9. 9. Risk of Business Failure
  10. 10. Emergence of Y2k Repair Industry
  11. 11. The Emergence of Masking as a Y2k Alternative
  12. 12. International Y2k Repair Effort
  13. 13. Why do Y2k Costs Vary?
  14. 14. Post-2000 Problems and Recovery Prognosis
  15. 15. Defenses Against Unrepaired Y2k Problems

Jones traces the origin of the Y2k Problem back to a misguided affinity for byte conservation in the early days of the digital computing era - saving a few bytes by representing years with two bytes rather than four. The result of the computing community's parsimonious treatment of bytes is a multitude of computing systems which will not, in the normal course of things, roll-over to year 2000 at the end of this century. Many systems will roll back to 1900 instead. Others might pass beyond the millennium threshold correctly, only to fail to roll over from 2099 to 2100. Still others may fail to advance beyond a pre-determined elapsed time in seconds since a certain starting date (e.g., Unix-time). These anomalies are motivating organizations worldwide to prematurely retire their computer systems, scramble for patches and work-arounds, and establish year-2000 rapid response teams to deal with all of the glitches which the other techniques fail to address. The aggregate worldwide cost of dealing with this problem is staggering, by Jones' estimate, $70,753,562,795 and will require 8,465,060 person months to repair. The Figure, below, breaks out these costs by year by type.

Figure 1.Year 2000 Expenses by Year by Type

While this reviewer can't speak authoritatively about these cost estimates, I can report that they are carefully reasoned and advanced in the book. In fact, Jones uses two separate metrics for most of his calculations - lines of code and function points - and compares and contrasts these results. The reader will be impressed with Jones careful analysis and thorough exposition.

Parts of this review were adapted from the reviewers' article on the Y2k Problem which appeared in the March, 1998 issue of Communications of the ACM. - Used with permission.