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Every couple of weeks, it seems, the press reports that someone has
found a solution to Y2K. When you read the article, you quickly discover
that the so-called solution is simply one more software tool designed to
automate some aspect of Y2K software remediation. There are literally
thousands of these tools available today. While many of them are
effective in speeding up the process of Y2K repairs, none of them are a
cure-all, and they certainly aren’t a “silver bullet.”

The fact is a silver bullet is impossible. This is true for at least
three reasons.

1. There are too many computer languages. According to Jeff Jinnett,
a Year 2000 expert, in his testimony before Congress:

    There is no technological silver bullet for the Year 2000
    computer problem. The reason for this is that although silver bullet
    technologies may be developed to automate and speed up corrective work
    on certain software languages, there may be as many as 500 different
    software languages in current use
    and automated corrective tools
    will not be developed for all of these languages (emphasis added).

Worse, although these 500 different software languages may
currently be in use, many of them are no longer understood. The
programmers are either retired or dead.

2. The source code is often missing. The source code for many
programs no longer exists. Without the source code — the language that
humans read and write as opposed to the compiled code that machines read
and write — programmers can’t make any changes to the program. Their
only options are to rewrite the program from scratch or to try and
“de-compile” it, which is messy and often inaccurate.

3. You usually can’t reprogram embedded chips. Even if you could
develop a software tool that would address the problem with all 500
computer languages, and even if you had the source code, a silver bullet
could not be used on embedded chip systems. That’s because most of these
chips cannot be reprogrammed; they must be replaced if they are found to
be non-compliant.

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