It never ceases to amaze me at how many databases out there still use 2 digit year fields.

This goes back to the time of 80 column punched cards and nobody has bothered to update the tables when the databases were moved to newer machines.

Rather than rewriting code to handle a four-digit year, many opted for a windowing approach, where systems would treat the 20 years from 00 to 19 as being from the 2000s. This bandage did not solve the fundamental problems.

It is not that hard to convert a database but it does take some code to handle the UI problems. COBOL is still widely used and it has been the curse of many people over time.

Parking meters in NYC stopped taking card payments. Some GPS problems too causing some servers to reboot over and over. While not many problems exist, the lesson is clear. It’s time to hire a few developers can modernize the shop.

The old Garmin ETREX H GPS thinks it’s 1999. The unit has a firmware defect but Garmin has an update that requires the serial cable for the device.

Many banks still use COBOL and this can be seen on teller IBM 3270 terminals where a console 80×24 text is used. The COBOL application can be placed in a window so that other applications can be used as well and switching around is easy. The COBOL PICTURE is the description of the screen layout.

It does take a few seconds to modify a larger table and a few hours to check UI code but that is all. Some managers are so fearful of problems they let it fester away.

Changing a mainframe database to a web based solution has been successful as web based banking demonstrates.

Down the road a bit it’s the 32-bit fault for the UNIX epoch. In 2038 it will be overflowing and then problems will be back again. The hope that the move to 64-bit will be complete is very unrealistic as many embedded systems cannot be changed. Sadly most will let problems fester away.

It’s not all that hard to convert an old mainframe to a more modern HTML front end. The old database can be converted to MySQL which is a free database. The HTML/PHP can recreate the old screens from the COBOL setup. This way the restrictions can be maintained etc. Depending on the complexity, the conversion can be done in 12 months or less.