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New software problem to hit before the year 2000

Look out folks, it's the Four Nines Bug -- seriously

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People who can't wait for the collapse of civilisation in the wake of the Millennium Bug could get a taste of Armageddon sooner than they think. The disaster recovery group Safetynet has warned that there could be problems in September when some older computer systems fail to cope with the date change between Thursday, 9 and Friday, 10 September. The "Four Nines Bug" -- so named because it is set to hit on 9/9/99 -- is likely to affect systems that used 3GL and in particular, Cobol-based mainframes developed in the 60s and 70s. Larger organisations are particularly at risk including banks and insurance companies. "It used to be the common practice to use a string of 9s at the end of a file when this code was originally written," said spokeswoman Piper-Anna Shields at Safetynet. "No one back then ever imagined that it would still be used today," she said. To get round the problem, Safetynet is urging companies to check for this date anomaly during their normal Y2K testing and to talk with their software suppliers. It's a view endorsed by the UK's largest independent software testing consultancy, Tescom. "Some systems may simply shut down," said Jordan Daniel of Tescom. "It's impossible to say how big the problem is but if it nothing is done, it has the possibility of touching everyone," he said. News that the Four Nines Bug could cause pre-Millennium carnage was welcomed by some computing journalists who claimed that the market for sensationalist Y2K stories was drying up. "Readers are starting to balk at yet more year 2000 rubbish," said one hack. "The Four Nines Bug should mean we can continue to avoid doing any real work for a little while longer." ®

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