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IBM fights Year 2000 bug

IBM is adding extensions to its development tools that could help big companies stamp out the millennium bug.

IBM (IBM) is adding extensions to its development tools that could help big companies stamp out the millennium bug.

The Year 2000 problem, or the millennium bug, affects computer software that tracks dates using only the last two digits of the year, such as 97 instead of 1997. So when 00 comes up for the year 2000, many computers will view it as 1900 instead, causing widespread--and unpredictable--problems.

IBM today announced the Millennium Language Extensions, a set of software development tools that extend IBM's COBOL and PL/I compilers to automate a technique called "date century windowing" used to alter existing programs.

The Extensions will be included as part of the company's VisualAge 2000 development tool, a package aimed specifically at corporate developers attempting to update their software to recognize the new millennium.

Such upgrading has become a monumental task for big business, governments, and universities, say analysts. The Gartner Group estimates that it could cost between $300 and $600 billion for U.S. companies to convert entire systems to recognize the year 2000.

IBM says the Extensions for versions of PL/I running on OS/2 and Windows NT will ship in October, and for COBOL compilers on OS/2 and Windows NT in the first half of next year. IBM also will ship the COBOL tools on its OS/390, MVS, VM, and VSE mainframe operating systems in the first half of next year. Pricing has not been announced.