back to article Developer’s code worked, but not in the right century

Why hello there Monday! And hello, therefore, to a new instalment of “Who, me?”, The Register’s column in which readers confess to their c*ckups. This week meet “Lars” who told us he once worked for “a large outsourcing company” that assigned him to do some work on a major supermarket chain’s loyalty card program. One of the …

  1. Shugyosha

    If Denis Norden didn't need to censor 'cockups', I don't think The Reg has to.

    1. HPCJohn

      Can someone explain to me ... why in the blue blazes would a supermarket have its own date format? I guess a database expert can explain.

      But more importantly why is a format like that not documented and given to all developers?

      I know it is not a comparable situation, but I have a great respect for ISO 9001 standards for documents. ISO standards might seem boring in the extreme. However there as a case of a person receiving a radiation overdose because the dose calculation was performed using a superseded document. Far more serious than loyalty points.

      1. malle-herbert
        Facepalm

        Re : Can someone explain to me...

        Why this wasn't tested offline first before applying it to a LIVE database ?

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Re : Can someone explain to me...

          "Why this wasn't tested offline first before applying it to a LIVE database ?"

          No test database?

          1. MiguelC Silver badge

            Re: Re : Can someone explain to me...

            "No test database?"

            To test in production you write to log instead of DB or do a dry run first, without committing!

          2. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: Re : Can someone explain to me...

            "Why this wasn't tested offline first before applying it to a LIVE database ?"

            No test database?

            That wasn't uncommon. Been there, done that and screwed up the "live" data base once... lesson learned. I didn't start seeing test databases until around 2000 due to the costs involved for storage, etc. In at least one case, it was the IT manager who felt that programmers were perfect and thus no need for one.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Re : Can someone explain to me...

          Why this wasn't tested offline first before applying it to a LIVE database ?

          You think there's a test database when they did bit fiddling with the date format to save space?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Re : Can someone explain to me...

            > You think there's a test database when they did bit fiddling with the date format to save space?

            A test database for the task at hand could be as small as one or two partial records, if need be.

            That said, I am not criticising the person in question as I do not know the whole story.

      2. H in The Hague

        "... ISO standards might seem boring in the extreme."

        I've now reached the age where I consider that far preferable to the wrong kind of excitement.

        (Anyway, those standards mostly say: think about what you're doing, do it consistently, and make sure you can prove it - common sense really.)

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "those standards mostly say: think about what you're doing, do it consistently"

          I'm not sure low level customer service agents are allowed to think what they're doing but consistency seems to matter, even if it's done badly. Once something goes wrong any complaint leads to the same wrong being repeated.

          Newspapers often have a weekly column where a journalist manages to sort out various customer issues with big companies. Inevitably the problem has gone round a C/S loop several times without success, gets fixed as soon as it gets tackled out of loop and turns out to be some combination of "unique" and "computer" issue. The only thing unique was that it got handled by the company's press desk who needed a sensible answer. Up to then it had probably been handled strictly according to the C/S scripts with all the consistency that ISO 9000 and the like dictate. A few decades back the talk was of "empowering" C/S. That's been killed in the name of consistency.

      3. katrinab Silver badge

        What is The Standard Date Format?

        No of days since 1st January 1900? (Windows)

        No of days since 2nd January 1904? (Mac)

        No of days since 1st January 1970? (Unix)

        No of days since 1st January 1980? (Sage)

        1. Mage Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: The Standard Date Format?

          I do like YYYY MM DD HH MM SS. Not sure what the standard way to store is. The US printed format MM DD YYYY is a broken idea.

          XKCD Standards

          I think year 0 on computers should have been end of last Ice age in Ireland, or date of founding of first town in the world.

          Two sizes of date / time object?

          Big: Heat death of Universe with resolution of Planck time

          Regular: Expected death of Earth due to Sun + 10 million years, resolution 1 millisecond.

          Yes I know 2 digit year was to save storage and existing start dates are compromises. Many/most run out in less than possible existence of human species.

          Three main issues:

          Start date of storage

          Format(s) of storage

          Human readable formats, not just in Latin script, but all languages.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: The Standard Date Format?

            "I think year 0 on computers should have been end of last Ice age in Ireland"

            What's your reference site, Littleton, Sluggan or something else? And are you including pollen zone I or even I, II and III as ice age?

          2. Mystereed

            Re: The Standard Date Format?

            "I do like YYYY MM DD HH MM SS. "

            We had a bug in a script which did a very similar thing to what you did (and a very easy mistake for humans to make) - the log file showed all updates at 7 minutes past the hour, none for any other minute.

            It was July - We needed to use MI instead of MM for the minutes mask :-)

          3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: The Standard Date Format?

            "Many/most run out in less than possible existence of human species."

            Is time to start planning for the year Y10K bug yet?

          4. Captain Obvious
            Joke

            Re: The Standard Date Format?

            Looks like you will have a Y10K problem!

            I will get me coat....

          5. jelabarre59 Silver badge

            Re: The Standard Date Format?

            Yes I know 2 digit year was to save storage and existing start dates are compromises. Many/most run out in less than possible existence of human species.

            I had heard some systems in the 1960's had been programmed with *one* digit years. So there were a handful of cases of a "Year 1970 Bug". It should have been a clue that the problem might crop up again.

            And as I remember, Business Basic used a *2-character* (not 2-digit) format for years, so you'd have to use a conversion table to manipulate it in outside code. Not that MAS90 was very friendly with outside-code (was a nightmare dealing with EDI and MAS90).

          6. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
            Holmes

            Re: The Standard Date Format?

            @Mage: I take your XKCD Standards and raise you

            XKCD ISO 8601.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge

          What is The Standard Date Format?

          Way back, when harddisks were Fscking Expensive, I inherited a record[0] catalog database for a library, written in Turbo Pascal. To save space on its very minimal 20MB harddisk, dates were coded as 5 bits day, 4 bits month, and 7 bits year counting from 1900, stored in a 16-bit word. That wasn't too bad, since the only date info used at that point were the date of purchase and maybe a date of retirement of the physical item. However, soon after I took over maintenance we decided to also use the database for recording transactions as well. For this a larger PC was acquired for the princely sum of a tick over Dfl.10000, with a 80MB disk, so space became less of a issue. As the database layout had to change anyway, I decided to store dates as Julian making it a no-brainer to calculate date differences (which one could consider somewhat crucial for a library).

          [0] the vinyl and CD sort.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > No of days since 1st January 1970? (Unix)

          Seconds since the Epoch! Not accounting for leap seconds or the fact that at the time of the Epoch (1970-01-01T00:00:00Z) UTC did not yet exist.

          (jumps up and down angrily)

        4. Hans 1 Silver badge
          Happy

          timestamp is a date format

          @Katrinab

          1. Nope, those are timestamps! They are usually [milli]seconds since, NOT days.

          2. 2nd January 1904? (Mac) ? That was up until Mac OS 9 (aka 2000), Mac OS X and macOS use UNIX timestamps.

          Maybe The Register can come up with its own special timestamp ? Milliseconds since el'Reg started ?

          A date format is, for example, [joke]dd/MM/yyyy in the civilized and MM/dd/yyyy in the uncivilized world. Some heretics also like to use dd.MM.yyyy. l33ts use yyyyMMdd.[/joke]

          1. katrinab Silver badge

            Re: timestamp is a date format

            Excel for Mac still uses the 1904 date format, which can cause problems when working on a spreadsheet on both platforms.

          2. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: timestamp is a date format

            "l33ts use yyyyMMdd"

            Also, Japan. It's also known as ISO 8601, and I use it for pretty much everything except talking to people.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: timestamp is a date format

              > It's also known as ISO 8601, and I use it for pretty much everything except talking to people.

              So you're neither a Basque nor Hungarian speaker¹ then?

              ¹ Other languages also qualify.

          3. Munchausen's proxy
            Pint

            Re: timestamp is a date format

            "Maybe The Register can come up with its own special timestamp ? Milliseconds since el'Reg started ?"

            VMS (and OpenVMS) uses tenths of microseconds starting November 17, 1858.

            1. ROC

              Re: timestamp is a date format

              Full story here:

              http://h41379.www4.hpe.com/wizard/wiz_2315.html

              Looks plausible, but read yourself, and decide ;-}

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: timestamp is a date format

            No joke here. You'll see files with yyyymmdd encoded in the file name for those items that consist of semi-regular snapshots. Usually the Friday Squid Blog on Bruce Schneier's 'blog. I've other troves, but the one that drove the format.

            1. onefang Silver badge

              Re: timestamp is a date format

              "You'll see files with yyyymmdd encoded in the file name"

              I used a version number and YYYYMMDD as part of the file name for updates once, client had me change it to DDMMYYYY so they could understand it.

          5. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: timestamp is a date format

            Maybe The Register can come up with its own special timestamp ? Milliseconds since el'Reg started ?

            Sheepmarathons (the time required for a sheep at maximum velocity in vacuum to finish a marathon) (straight line, I expect it'll have some problems cornering at that speed).

            That's 0.0070383633 seconds, to be exact.

        5. Jonathan Richards 1

          No standard for epochs - @katrinab

          Those are epochs: the arbitrarily chosen t=0 point for the counter. Formats are the expression of dates in one's chosen calendar.

          PS. In fact, Unix counts seconds since the epoch, hence the approaching Unix Time "Apocalypse".

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: No standard for epochs - @katrinab

            Unix counts seconds since the epoch, hence the approaching Unix Time "Apocalypse"

            From then link: "On January 19, 2038 03:14:08 GMT all computers that still use 32 bit Unix Time will overflow."

            In 20 years time will there be anything outside of museums still using 32-bit Unix time?

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: No standard for epochs - @katrinab

              "In 20 years time will there be anything outside of museums still using 32-bit Unix time?"

              Possibly, yes. IIRC parts of the US nuclear deterrent still relies on 8" floppies (or only recently changed)

              1. Stoneshop Silver badge
                Trollface

                Re: No standard for epochs - @katrinab

                Possibly, yes. IIRC parts of the US nuclear deterrent still relies on 8" floppies

                Launching fiery death in 50 ... 40 ... 30 ... -65510 seconds, abort.

            2. David Nash Silver badge

              Re: No standard for epochs - @katrinab

              "will there be anything outside of museums still using 32-bit Unix time?"

              Of course there will. Some will be embedded or control systems built by suppliers who no longer exist. Those will be the big problems, because the users won't even be aware that a problem is coming.

            3. onefang Silver badge

              Re: No standard for epochs - @katrinab

              "In 20 years time will there be anything outside of museums still using 32-bit Unix time?"

              In 20 years time I would not be surprised that a certain embedded 32 bit device I'm responsible for is still in use. In 19 years time, remind me to bring that up with the client.

            4. druck Silver badge
              Boffin

              Re: No standard for epochs - @katrinab

              Doctor Syntax wrote:

              From then link: "On January 19, 2038 03:14:08 GMT all computers that still use 32 bit Unix Time will overflow."

              Well it overflows a signed 32 bit number, which will affect a lot of incorrectly written software, but it will be another 68 years before it overflows an unsigned 32 bit number, and really is at the end of the road.

            5. fobobob

              Re: No standard for epochs - @katrinab

              Going by the amount of old COBOL stuff that needed updating for Y2K, I would be far more surprised if there wasn't.

            6. ROC

              Re: No standard for epochs - @katrinab

              Probably some industrial process controller running on 80386 Xenix (assuming 16-bit architecture already fell over (if anyone noticed ....)

          2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: No standard for epochs - @katrinab

            Unix counts seconds since the epoch, hence the approaching Unix Time "Apocalypse".

            [Somewhere in a dusty corner of an otherwise deserted computer lab, two bearded men are hunched over a Teletype]

            Ken: Date and time, what's it going to be?

            Dennis: Some very large number, so that when it overflows, we won't be around.

            Ken: UINT16?

            Dennis: Better make it UINT32, that should be fine.

            Ken: Right. That should be safe. By the time it rolls over, no one will ever remember UNIX.

        6. tony2heads
          Boffin

          Julian day number

          starting at noon on Monday, January 1, 4713 BC

        7. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Yes, since the date format is such a non-standard, the first thing I do is find out what it is... mainly precipitated by bad experiences like the article's subject.

        8. Mike Richards

          Someone should implement a date format starting at 'around 6 pm on 22 October 4004BCE'.

      4. Peter Prof Fox

        Because computer dates are numbers but real dates aren't

        Not yet. Unknown. Since before we started counting. And so on.

        When did you move into your house? Come on! Come on! YYYY-MM-DD all the bits! I can only remember it was summer 1989. So 1989 is a perfectly valid real world date which isn't 1st Jan 1989.

        Then you need to do sorting and calculations. What is 31st January plus one month? Does 4th August come 'before' or 'after' August? (Neither it is 'in'.) Nobody is sure when Chaucer was born (Roughly 1343) so do we use 'unknown' or wing-it with 1343. J.K. Rowling was born 31 July 1965 so that's fine but what goes in the died field? 'Not yet' which is different from 'unknown'.

        More at http://vulpeculox.net/day/

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Because computer dates are numbers but real dates aren't

          Get into historical dates and you have more complications. Julian or Gregorian? Different countries switched at different times and the start of the year isn't necessarily the first of January. (Unix cal always starts with January. man cal, at least back in V7 days, listed that as a bug.)

          Then you get documents with the year given as regnal years and/or the rest of the date relative to a church feast or saint's day. Such documents may relate to property.

          1. Daedalus Silver badge

            Re: Because computer dates are numbers but real dates aren't

            Julian or Gregorian?

            You're confusing the Julian calendar with the Julian Day. The calendar is extinct, but the Julian day is used in various settings as a date that is the same across all calendars.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_day

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Because computer dates are numbers but real dates aren't

              "You're confusing the Julian calendar with the Julian Day."

              Oh no I'm not.

              "The calendar is extinct"

              Not if you're dealing with historical material. Just because you don't it doesn't mean that nobody else does. It's building in assumptions like that that lead to failures.

              If you have a Unix-like system with TZ set to one of those for "England and its colonies" (to quote the original man entry) run

              cal 1752

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Because computer dates are numbers but real dates aren't

                > cal 1752

                Excellent!

                1. Jonathan Richards 1

                  Re: Because computer dates are numbers but real dates aren't

                  > cal 1752

                  [imagine a September where Wed 2 is followed by Thu 14]*

                  Really, that should be dependent on i10n; different countries switched from Julian to Gregorian calendars at different points in time (and hence with different adjustment days omitted). 1752 was the year Britain and its colonies got on board. Turkey held out until 1926.

                  *You have to imagine, because El Reg, he no let me paste monospaced typeface.

              2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Because computer dates are numbers but real dates aren't

                "cal 1752"

                Ah yes, Ephemeral September rather than Eternal September :-)

              3. Olivier2553 Silver badge

                Re: Because computer dates are numbers but real dates aren't

                "The calendar is extinct

                Not if you're dealing with historical material."

                That does not make it less extinct. Like Latin is an extinct language, even if there are professors still teaching Latin.

                I would also assume that historians are not much concerned about the way a computer may handle dates, it is not like your old manuscript is getting out of stock any soon.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Because computer dates are numbers but real dates aren't

            > and the start of the year isn't necessarily the first of January.

            Correct. For example in Catholic countries, dates between 25 December and 31 December in documents more than about 130 years old required context or expert local knowledge to disambiguate the year.

          3. Diogenes Silver badge

            Re: Because computer dates are numbers but real dates aren't

            I show this to my students when talking about times & dates. Then there are the complication of the different centuries, eg this year 2561 in Thailand , 1436 in muslim countries, and don't get me started on the 12 years of the French Revolutionary calendar

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5wpm-gesOY

        2. Paranoid android

          Re: Because computer dates are numbers but real dates aren't

          YYYY-MM-DD all the bits!

          Plus I shudder to think about the Y10k problem, when we need to add a digit to the date format...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Because computer dates are numbers but real dates aren't

            That's an "assumption" you'll find in bold type in a highlighted box in my code. I really don't "expect" anyone to be using dBase II, III or Clipper but "it's the military, stupid." God, that's going back to things I still shudder about.

            1. Tweetiepooh

              Re: Because computer dates are numbers but real dates aren't

              xBase did store dates with 4 character year but lots of coding just used 2. This did mean that rewriting a hospital PAS from Clipper 87 to Clipper 5 didn't need huge changes to the data. And you could change the epoch such that 2 digit year could be interpreted differently depending on usage. So in 1990

              DOB : 31/05/91 would store 31 May 1891

              Appointment : 31/05/01 would store 31 May 1991

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Because computer dates are numbers but real dates aren't

                "DOB : 31/05/91 would store 31 May 1891

                Appointment : 31/05/01 would store 31 May 1991"

                And all it took to break it is a 100+ year old patient wanting an appointment :-)

              2. SpottyOwl

                Re: Because computer dates are numbers but real dates aren't

                I was involved in writing a few systems for the local NHS in the 1980s and 1990s, using Clipper. I bottled out and stored all dates as strings in the YYYYMMDD from the beginning and so had a slight overhead in some aspects of processing but indexing, grouping, etc. was easy.

                I was asked to confirm in writing (and, for all I knew, sign my life and first-born away) that the system was Y2K compliant. I took the easy option, said that my software was, their hardware...maybe...other software involved...certainly not, and so I couldn't sign off.

                As they say, I never worked in that town again. :-)

                Ironically, through the early 2000s I got contacted by other NHS units that was using the software I'd written that I didn't know had it, and they had no problems. I must have got something right.

        3. onefang Silver badge

          Re: Because computer dates are numbers but real dates aren't

          "J.K. Rowling was born 31 July 1965 so that's fine but what goes in the died field? 'Not yet' which is different from 'unknown'."

          I bet she's really happy about that to.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Because computer dates are numbers but real dates aren't

            "'Not yet' which is different from 'unknown'."

            We have had an issue at work (hence AC), trying to explain why putting "not provided" in a field (like serial number) isn't the same thing as "none". "None" implies the data does not exist, while "not provided" implies the person collecting the data was too lazy to record it - for a required field.

      5. Nick Kew Silver badge
        Flame

        why in the blue blazes would a supermarket have its own date format?

        People have already pointed to the multiplicity of (non-)standards. Things were probably even more chaotic when the system was first designed. And who knows, maybe it had gone through something more esoteric, like the software I once had the misfortune to encounter where all the time&date code (among other things) were completely screwed by porting to a different-endian architecture.

        But more importantly why is a format like that not documented and given to all developers?

        You must be young! Corporate documentation walks faster than a ripe cheese. Pre-google, it was rare indeed to be able to lay hands on anything that wasn't too patronisingly obvious for anyone to have bothered to nick it. Even if it existed, expect it to describe something that needs you to perform - say - endianness magic (never imagined by the writer) to work.

        And to be written to corporate processes. The bit you need was chopped as "too complex" by the tech writer's boss. Any surviving note is buried in a disused septic tank behind something more intimidating than a mere "beware of the leopard" sign (icon for one prospective layer of cover).

        1. xeroks

          why in the blue blazes...

          why in the blue blazes would a supermarket have its own date format?

          One of my first employers stored future dates and and thus encountered the millennium bug very early.

          They had been aware of the problem well before that, but because storage was still expensive, they put it off for a few years. Adding a digit or 2 to all dates was a big deal, requiring the whole database to be unpacked and repacked. It would have taken more than a weekend on the hardware of the time.

          They worked around it for awhile by turning the last digit of the year into an alphanumeric (yes it was COBOL) so 2000 was 9A, 2001 was 9B etc.

          They had come to a longer term fix by the time I left, just before they ran out of letters.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: why in the blue blazes...

            They had come to a longer term fix by the time I left, just before they ran out of letters.

            After Z, maybe switch to Unicode?

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Holmes

        While I can't speak to supermarkets but while I wore the uniform, we had a unique format for dates on requisitions. You took the last digit of the year and tacked that in front of the day in Julian format (YDDD with DDD being count of days since first of the year.) I had all kinds of fun coding around that. Not just getting a valid date into the supply system, I also had to be able to reverse that from normal calender that we use for all other purpose. Lastly, I needed to be able to do arithmetic in this Julian. Almost forgot. All of it had to be validated (sanity-checked) as I do create contracts for everything I've ever coded and ruthlessly enforce them.

        F*ck this up and it's a general courts martial that results. Good fun.

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          YDDD with DDD being count of days since first of the year

          There is a variation of that spec which can be encountered in industry: DDD is the count of days since first of the year, except leap years where 29th Feb is daycode 366. All other days in a leap year have the same daycode as they would have in a non-leap year. Arguably more consistent in some perverse way, but not good if thinking of sorting by these codes to check stock rotation.

          YDDD also depends on maximum life of any item to be less than ten years.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: YDDD with DDD being count of days since first of the year

            > YDDD also depends on maximum life of any item to be less than ten years.

            Not really, just use base 64 or so and you get 64 years of 262144 days each (naturally, you will be zero-based, why waste a perfectly good number when space is at a premium?).

            Still a problem? Switch to Unicode!

            Still a problem? Switch to Unicode code points!

            1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

              Re: just use base 64 or so and you get 64 years of 262144 days

              The beauty of a system like YDDD is that it is easy to understand and it does the job that it is intended to do. I just happen to have a habit of documenting the snags when putting forward a point of view. For supermarkets and related industries a ten year shelf-life is unthinkable:

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: just use base 64 or so and you get 64 years of 262144 days

                > The beauty of a system like YDDD is that it is easy to understand and it does the job that it is intended to do.

                Precisely. And if you implement base 64 you also add Geek Value (and future-proofing). What's not to like?

              2. James O'Shea

                Re: just use base 64 or so and you get 64 years of 262144 days

                “A ten year shelf life is unthinkable”? They no longer sell Twinkies® where you are?

                1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

                  Re: A ten year shelf life is unthinkable”?

                  I'm thinking more of the cost of having something sitting unsold on a supermarket shelf for that length of time.

      7. getHandle

        Standard Date Format

        I think you're all missing the obvious: '..worked for “a large outsourcing company”'. Nuff said.

      8. BillG
        Gimp

        Captain's Log

        Can someone explain to me ... why in the blue blazes would a supermarket have its own date format? I guess a database expert can explain.

        What do you want to bet the date format was stardates? So today's stardate is 1806.18 (or 201806.18).

        Fanboi icon chosen because.

      9. Deltics
        Coat

        Why not use a standard date format ? Time Machine.

        You saw the part where it was mentioned that this was running in a mainframe environment ?

        ISO-8601 was first published in 1988.

        Chances are the data on the mainframe had been around for decades before anyone thought of the need to standardise on date formats and was governed by more practical (at the time) considerations such as the need to save space, optimise processing efficiency etc etc within the constraints of what are likely to have been some very idiosyncractic/esoteric qualities of the runtime environment.

        So fine, years later these new standards come along and processing power and storage efficiency are no longer the constraints they once were, and now you're only challenge is to convince the bean counters that they really should invest their beans in refactoring ALL of the date handling code in their systems which currently isn't broken at the opportunity cost of any amount of other value-add work in those systems together with the risk of introducing defects in systems that otherwise are working perfectly.

        Good luck with that.

        As for the documentation part of your question: What is highly likely to have happened here is that the date conventions in use were indeed very thoroughly documented but thanks to wilful misinterpretation of the Agile Manifesto (among other things) nobody believes in documentation these days (until AFTER they have learned how important it is). The developer might even have been told he had to read that documentation. Perhaps he even had read it in order to pass a control gate, but didn't actually take it in. Or perhaps they had read it years before, hadn't had to deal with date values in data for so long that they had forgotten or simply overlooked what they knew.

        Bottom line is: This sort of screw up happens. That's why we say that working software is more important than documentation, but "working" doesn't mean "compiles and runs". It does mean that, but so much more.

        Which is why testing is so crucial and why you never run new code for the first time in PROD.

        That's the real mind-blown aspect of this story.

      10. Fungus Bob Silver badge

        "why in the blue blazes would a supermarket have its own date format?"

        Can't answer that but I once worked at an electronic component distributor where the IT "guru" wrote an inventory control program in RPG II that lacked units of measure. So when you saw that you had 647 of something you had no idea if it was pieces, feet, spools, gallons, pallets or some other weird measure.

        1. JulieM Silver badge

          Units

          One of our production engineers wrote a program in Visual BASIC for MS-DOS (this was the mid or late 1990s) to extend an auto-insertion machine program for multiple PCBs on a panel. That had a choice of two measuring units: you could enter the length and width of the board in either hundreths of a millimetre or thousandths of a centimetre, and it would automagically determine which was what.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "I once worked at an electronic component distributor where the IT "guru" wrote an inventory control program in RPG II that lacked units of measure. So when you saw that you had 647 of something you had no idea if it was pieces, feet, spools, gallons, pallets or some other weird measure."

          We used to have similar fun ordering stationery... you would order 10 foolscap folders and would receive 10, 10 packs (of 5) or 10 boxes (of 100), depending on what happened to be in front of the person picking your order... 10 ordered, 10 picked, job done. Writing '10 boxes' on an order would not guarantee the correct amount, even where a form had a UOI (unit of issue) box

      11. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Back during the Y2K remediation days, folks came up with a number of ways of storing 4-digit year dates (or their equivalents) in pretty much the same space that the old date format used. The folks who started this process early (maybe in the 1980s or sooner) were the most constrained here, since disk and memory were still relatively expensive back then.

        BTW, back in the days when I might need to run the essentially the same SQL statement on multiple platforms (iSeries, Unix, Teradata, Windows, etc.), if there was anything that was going to give me particular grief it was probably going to be the differing date formats.

    2. wolfetone Silver badge

      "If Denis Norden didn't need to censor 'cockups', I don't think The Reg has to."

      They've started to censor "Head" from Lou Reed's 'Take A Walk On The Wild Side' on the radio.

      1. jonathan keith

        They're selling hippie wigs in Woolworths, man. The greatest decade in the history of mankind is over. And as Presuming Ed here has so consistently pointed out, we have failed to paint it black.

      2. caffeine addict Silver badge

        They've started to censor "Head" from Lou Reed's 'Take A Walk On The Wild Side' on the radio.

        Absolute Radio, by some chance?

        Yeah, the line "But she never lost her head, even while giving ____" shows how stupid censoring one word is. They'd probably say "it's the meaning, not the word", but if so why have I recently heard them play the lyrics "will she go down on you in a theatre" and "she can only come when she's on top"?

        Censorship is sh*t.

  2. Giovani Tapini Silver badge

    albeit not my cockup...

    transactions not being applied to accounts correctly, please help started the call.

    After a great deal of digging into the system it seems that some fundamental parameters had been changed manually but nobody had restarted all the cached threads/services.

    This was fairly bad as it meant that there was no easy way to identify transactions that needed to be reversed and re-applied correctly.

    Spent a week or so figuring it out with the corporate involved, with quite a number of customers noticing, even though this was early in the days of internet banking.

  3. Dave K Silver badge

    Indeed, also see here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Cockup) - there is in fact a hill near Keswick called "Great Cockup" and another hill next to it called "Little Cockup". Again, all not censored...

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Wot? No hill named "medium cockup"? :)

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Wot? No hill named "medium cockup"? :)

        Cockups are either big or small, there is no medium. Or so it seems.

    2. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Hills

      The highest hills in Cornwall and Devon are Brown Willy and High Willy respectively.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Nick Kew Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Hills

          And how do you think we pronounce that?

          For your Devon bonus, pronounce the name of the small town spelt Woolfardisworthy.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Hills

              Aveton Gifford was always my favorite "guess the Devon pronunciation"...

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Hills

                The other fun thing to do in Aveton Gifford is watch tourists' cars float off the road when the tide comes in.

              2. Martin
                Headmaster

                Re: Hills

                OK - so how does a Devonian pronounce Aveton Gifford? (Sounds like a riddle...)

            2. jonathan keith

              Re: Hills

              Laaaaaaaaanson.

            3. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
              Angel

              Re: Hills

              It's you lot that put the jam & the cream on in the wrong order.

          2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

            Re: Hills

            Woolsery (but that's only because I know the cryptozoologists who live there).

          3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Hills

            "For your Devon bonus, pronounce the name of the small town spelt Woolfardisworthy."

            Isn't that one of those with several correct pronunciations?

            1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
              Go

              Re: Hills

              Other fun names to properly pronounce in Devon & Cornwall:

              Crediton

              Doddiscombeleigh

              Loddiswell

              Launceston.

              Meanwhile other funny names in the Dorset\Hampshire area:

              Happy Bottom

              Scratchy Bottom

              Shitterton

              Burnt Balls

              Sandy Balls

        2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: Hills

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_Willy

      2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
        Gimp

        Re: Hills

        Lancashire bests that with Upper Ramsbottom.

        No need for the local spelling.. just lots of worried male sheep.

        Gimp because it takes alsorts

      3. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge

        Re: Hills

        ...and there is a river in Dorset called the Piddle (or Trent). It runs through Piddle Trenthide, Puddletown, and Tolpuddle (among others).

    3. Blofeld's Cat

      I had a friend in the Keswick Mountain Rescue Team and they once had to assist someone who had fallen and broken their ankle on a fell adjacent to "Little Cockup" while ascending "Great Cockup".

      The radio communications during the incident apparently became increasingly surreal as the journey progressed.

      BTW There is another hill called just "Cockup" about 2 miles south of "Little Cockup", so that's another possible venue for our next release party ...

  4. Mage Silver badge

    quietly removed from those who hadn’t.

    Am I misunderstanding this? They removed points people earned?

    Loyalty points on say a Tesco card are really payment for losing privacy. They are tracking what you personally bought, where and when.

    XKCD Customer Rewards

    1. jmch Silver badge

      Re: quietly removed from those who hadn’t.

      "quietly removed from those who hadn’t"

      Since 'Lars' apparently ran the process 4 or 5 times, I took this statement to mean that they removed the extra 3 or 4000 points, except for customers who had already noticed

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge

        Re: quietly removed from those who hadn’t.

        I thought the story said customers were selected at random. The exercise was a bonus stunt, not earned points.

      2. DropBear Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: quietly removed from those who hadn’t.

        But the article seems to make it sound like the points showed up for nobody, not even once, and the customers noticed _missing_ points that couldn't possibly have been the ones supposed to be applied randomly, or maybe the confusion is even worse...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: make it sound like

          Perhaps there was a "you've won a bonus!" mailshot, which only a fraction of recipients bothered to open and read.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Large supermarkets & banks were the first commercial organisations to embrace IT. The machines were hugely expensive and had very limited memory. The programmers were working at a very low level and concocted al sorts of schemes to reduce the amount of storage needed for both the data and the program.

    Go check out "The story of Mel" for the essence of these guys.

    Many years ago I worked in a bank that shall remain nameless...... their original "Internet" banking product stored transactions on the clients machine in a proprietary format.....before uploading them to the banks server over the dialup connection. Sometimes the client end would get corrupted. The solution was to get the client to backup the data onto a 3.5" floppy, send it through the post to us in the Internet banking team, we would then manually edit the disk and send it back through the post. There was no encryption....

    just creative ascii. The innocence of the internet had not yet bee corrupted.

    1. 's water music Silver badge

      Anonymous Coward

      Large supermarkets & banks were the first commercial organisations to embrace IT

      Tearooms shirley?

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Tearooms

        I think Lyons was also a bakery?

        IBM started as Hollerith, sorting cards for US Census. Economies of scale and the lack of regulation of large Corporations rather than actual innovation was the real reason that US Computers & OS dominated eventually.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. saxicola

      Ooh, I still have a backup floppy from 1999. How do I decode it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Happy

        Well usually, you find out that I do that kind of thing fairly regularly. Most all of the machines here have floppy controllers. Still. When I say I do legacy, I mean it.

    3. Gene Cash Silver badge

      > There was no encryption.... just creative ascii. The innocence of the internet had not yet bee corrupted.

      HEH. On this side of the pond, in my particular part of the US in the '80s, the power company sent an 80-column punchcard with your bill... which you returned with the bill, and they used it to process your payment.

      Since my mother was a developer^W software engineer^W^W programmer, she took it to work and punched a card with a negative amount in the proper place, thus getting us credited for a nice chunk o' change.

      Sigh. My mother... the hacker.

  6. Rich 11 Silver badge

    What did you break by getting little details like dates wrong?

    My first two marriages.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: What did you break by getting little details like dates wrong?

      You're not meant to date other people while you're still married*.

      *Exceptions apply.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: What did you break by getting little details like dates wrong?

        You are supposed to remember the date of your wedding anniversary.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: What did you break by getting little details like dates wrong?

          "You are supposed to remember the date of your wedding anniversary."

          I can remember the month, year, approx day of month and day of week. cal does the rest.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: What did you break by getting little details like dates wrong?

          You are supposed to remember the date of your wedding anniversary.

          Is there a date code shorthand for "after the heat death of the Universe"?

        3. Nick Kew Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: What did you break by getting little details like dates wrong?

          You are supposed to remember the date of your wedding anniversary.

          Only a woman would think that.

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: What did you break by getting little details like dates wrong?

      Your teeth, if you try to eat them fresh from the tree.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the multi-language human readable world - dates and times take many formats. I have an application that extracts the likely date content from free text postings. At the last count there were a dozen different format functions - each having to handle a number of variants within that basic format.

    ...and it still occasionally gets presented with new user variants that need extra coding - or a human doing the interpretation.

    1. VinceH
      Trollface

      Being a bit on the evil side, if I was involved in/posting to wherever you do that and knew you were doing it, I'd be inclined to come up with ever more creative ways to write dates.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I have an application that extracts the likely date content from free text postings."

      Thursday before S Dunstans day, the year abovesaid [25 Edward I]

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        My ground lease was granted in the Fourteenth year of the Reign of his late Majesty King Charles I, and the rent is due on Lady Day, Midsummer Day, Michaelmas and Christmas Day.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Thursday before S Dunstans day, the year abovesaid [25 Edward I]"

        Some Oxford universities still date their events in the form "Thursday the 4th week of Michaelmas Term".

        1. Diogenes Silver badge

          Not quite as bad I can feel in my waters its nearly the end of period 3, and know it is Tuesday week 8 term 2 2018, need to look at the time/date on the computer for more precision

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "...and it still occasionally gets presented with new user variants that need extra coding - or a human doing the interpretation."

      You mean like 02/03/18, 2nd March or 3rd Feb? Almost impossible to identify with certainty, even if you do know the nationality of the user. Sanity checking ism't likely to much help except in specific circumstances.

      1. 's water music Silver badge

        >> "...and it still occasionally gets presented with new user variants that need extra coding - or a human doing the interpretation."

        You mean like 02/03/18, 2nd March or 3rd Feb? Almost impossible to identify with certainty, even if you do know the nationality of the user. Sanity checking ism't likely to much help except in specific circumstances.

        Au contraire, sanity checking reveals that any sane person would mean 18th March 2002, although they would have written it as 2002/03/18 so maybe it is still ambiguous. One from @VinceH perhaps?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Sanity checking ism't likely to much help except in specific circumstances."

        If the day of the week is also given then any ambiguity can be reduced - although not always eliminated - by calculating the possible valid years within a tight range. That then needs to know the ways the names of days of the week might be abbreviated. In some languages they are modified (declined?) by different grammatical contexts.

        Some posters use several different formats for different events on a page. If they are Europeans who are going to tour the USA then they might use the US mm/dd/yy format just for those events.

  8. S4qFBxkFFg

    I was doing something with java and php where I needed to apply a remove operation to all items where their "expired" date was earlier than "now". Apparently the default date/time formats in java and php were not identical - I was comparing a value in seconds with one in milliseconds, and as soon as someone used the "remove expired items" command, the database was promptly emptied of all its items.

    (University group project, I wasn't popular.)

  9. Crisp Silver badge

    "What did you break by getting little details like dates wrong?"

    To be fair to Lars, it wasn't his fault the previous developer decided to roll their own date type.

    1. Julz Bronze badge

      Re: "What did you break by getting little details like dates wrong?"

      Hum, I hope I would be vigilant enough to look at the actual data before making those sort of assumptions...

  10. scrubber

    It'll be better in the future

    Stardate 11143.3 is much easier to understand

  11. Charles King

    From our Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease Dept.

    "the bonus points were honoured for those customers who spotted them and quietly removed from those who hadn’t"

    Moral of the day: complain loudly every time you can, because any customer who thinks a company can be trusted to do the right thing without someone standing over them will end up sadly disappointed.

  12. m0rt Silver badge

    “So obviously I just ran the job again, as you do. I think I did it a few times before I gave up and asked a colleague for advice.”

    Does running something again when you get something unexpected seem like a bad idea?

    Or is this just me?

    1. H in The Hague

      "Does running something again when you get something unexpected seem like a bad idea?"

      Probably.

      Is it something many of us do regularly?

      Definitely.

    2. Hans 1 Silver badge
      Holmes

      How come this is not working, must be the compiler's or interpreter's fault ...

      Running anything in production without a proper testing in test environment is a big no, no, no.

      Does running something again when you get something unexpected seem like a bad idea?

      Or is this just me?

      It is a good idea, PROVIDED:

      1. You are in dev or test environment

      2. You have debug statements in your code and forgot to enable them on the first run or simply want to ensure one can safely run the program multiple times. There are certainly other cases as well ...

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: How come this is not working, must be the compiler's or interpreter's fault ...

        "It is a good idea, PROVIDED:

        1. You are in dev or test environment

        2. You have debug statements in your code and forgot to enable them on the first run or simply want to ensure one can safely run the program multiple times. There are certainly other cases as well ..."

        Yes, I don't think a time frame was mentioned in the article. It wasn't unusual many years ago to be working on a live system because there was no test environment. Having said that, I would always run something like that which would do the "change" but not write it back, write to console or printer instead so I could eyeball what was likely to happen before committing any writes into the database.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Does running something again when you get something unexpected seem like a bad idea?"

      There's a saying for that, along the lines of "only a fool repeats their actions expecting something different to happen"

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge
        Coat

        @John Brown

        All the best people are fools.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "There's a saying for that, along the lines of "only a fool repeats their actions expecting something different to happen"

        I would agree with that - except on a number of occasions something different does happen. Perfectly deterministic - but only once you finally understand all the timing and underlying constraints.

        Confirmation bias also means that people stop testing when something appears to behave as they expected the first time.

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    In terms of weird formats does anyone remember the TACS serial number as given on the phone's label and its relationship to the hex format CellNet needed to activate it?

  14. Killfalcon Silver badge

    (some dates fudged because I can't recall when this actually happened, but it's wasn't actually this year)

    "Why do we have pension schemes for 5 year olds?"

    "Oh, that's a savings product, set up in the kid's name by the parents. Government scheme, even."

    "Neat, sounds like a useful product. And this minus 7 year old?"

    "...I'll get back to you."

    ** two days, several meetings and a few minor recriminations later **

    "It was Excel, and 2-digit years for data-entry work. Any 2-year date below 30 is assumed to be a future date, so a pensioner born in 1925 is coming through as born in 2025, seven years in the future, hence -7. A very annoyed senior data-entry clerk is now re-doing that batch, muttering unpleasantries about co-workers."

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "It was Excel"

      When all you have is a hammer...

      See also https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/06/18/home_office_loses_bid_to_reduce_number_of_potential_claimants_from_2013_data_error/

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never mind the date... what about that algorithm?!?!

    Lots of (justified) complaining about the date format but what about that algorithm?

    “This was on an IBM mainframe and involved writing a script to extract all customers to a file, remove staff, contractors, their relatives etc, extract the random 1000 and create a database load file consisting of account ID, number of points and the date to be applied.”

    Wouldn't it be rather less processing effort to pick a random account, then test for eligibility, then append to the load file if okay? [1] Stop after 1000 found.

    [1] The story's modern enough to relate to loyalty points so I assume we're not still on tape storage with sequential access only.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Never mind the date... what about that algorithm?!?!

      [1] The story's modern enough to relate to loyalty points so I assume we're not still on tape storage with sequential access only.

      The story is clearly dealing with, er, legacy issues if not actually happening several decades ago, given that custom date format which is something you decide to use if you're strapped for space Maybe the environment has been upgraded and space is not the issue it was, but the date format, and probably oodles of other cruft, is still there. And the environment may well still act as if it's sequential access, like it was when the first line of code was punched.

  16. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    The Internet is international - and so are many supermarkets.

    Gosh, what a lot of ethnocentric Englanders commenting today :-)

    England is not the only country in the multiverse, and nor is it the only place with supermarkets and computers.

    Today is 18th June 2018. In England.

    In Islam it's 4 Shawwal, 1439

    In Persia it's 28 Khordad 1397

    In Nepal it's 4th Asadh 2075

    In Ethiopia it's ሰኞ ሰኔ 11 2010

    In the Chinese calendar its May 5, Wu Xu Year.

    The year is 5778 in the Hebrew calendar.

    Then there's the Balinese Pawukon calendar which I don't pretend to understand ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Internet is international - and so are many supermarkets.

      IIRC there are still some organisations that use the Julian Calendar rather than the Gregorian one.

      In the past when England decided it would not be dictated to by Europe - there was a significant number of days difference in dates between the two calendars. When England finally made the change by advancing the date - there was discontent if not actual rioting by some people in England who believed they had just been robbed of several days of their lives.

      Now - of what does that remind me?

      1. G.Y.

        The HAVE been robbed: Re: The Internet is international - and so are many supermarkets.

        Rent was paid by quarter, laborers were paid by the day. The quarter around September 1752 (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cal_(Unix) ) was bad news for renters.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: The HAVE been robbed: The Internet is international - and so are many supermarkets.

          "The quarter around September 1752 ... was bad news for renters."

          Thanks for that. I'd not thought about quarters. Yearly contracts were adjusted by moving the financial year end back by 11 days to April 5th.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The Internet is international - and so are many supermarkets.

        "Now - of what does that remind me?"

        An 11-day booze?

  17. Borg.King

    Lars & the future interview

    Do I, or do I not, now give date related coding questions to any interviewee named Lars?

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Lars & the future interview

      The bigger question is: is he going to show up on the date you set?

  18. TheRealRoland

    Date format history - somewhere?

    A couple of weeks ago I watched an ancestry-type show. Documents written in England in the 1600s apparently used the mm/dd/yyyy format back then. But now almost all European countries are using dd/mm/yyyy in their day to day communications. So I guess that's where the US format came from... And got stuck, after "the rest of the world' adopted dd/mm/yyyy as the regular date format

    (sure, pedants will find exceptions, already highlighted in previous posts. But in general, i'm saying).

    Interesting. Probably off topic. Still interesting.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Date format history - somewhere?

      "sure, pedants will find exceptions"

      I don't think I've seen one that adopted that. Things were generally spelled out, often using regnal years - in fact the realms covered by the regnal years still included France well into the C17th.

      Here's a Derbyshire lease: "the twelfth day of September in the fourth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord James ye second by the grace of God England Scotland France & Ireland King defender of the faith &c Annoq Dom one thousand six hundred eighty eight "

      That one was on the cusp of replacing regnal years by AD years. A few decades later and into the C18th this is the somewhat terse date of my 6x great grandfather's Will: "the twenty first day of October Anno Dmi 1720".

      By the time of my 5x great grandfather's Will this had got abit more wordy: "dated this twentythird Day of November in the Year of our Lord one Thousand seven Hundred forty and nine".

      That continued into the C19th with my 3x ggfather: "the twenty seventh day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fourteen".

      1. onefang Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Date format history - somewhere?

        "the twelfth day of September in the fourth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord James ye second by the grace of God England Scotland France & Ireland King defender of the faith &c Annoq Dom one thousand six hundred eighty eight "

        Obviously they didn't have space issues when trying to squeeze that onto computers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Date format history - somewhere?

      "But now almost all European countries are using dd/mm/yyyy in their day to day communications. "

      Back in the 1970s I found that in Sweden they often used yyyy mm dd. Can't remember what the separators were - but I adopted that order for all my IT work with dated file names as it sorts into a sensible list.

  19. G.Y.

    month names

    A colleague tried to avoid US/Europe date confusion by outputting 12-May-2018 etc. Worked A-OK until the French insisted on French, the Hungarians on Hungarian, the Esperanto guys ...

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: month names

      "Esperanto Guys"?

      Who should've told you that Esperanto is an auxiliary language, not a replacement for the one you speak already.

      &&, ! ||

      Ne grava.

      Ĝis.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: month names

      "[...] the French insisted on French [...]"

      The spelling of a Polish month name can vary with declension.

      The Spanish would probably insist on the extra "de" or "del" as in:

      17 de marzo del 1904

      3 de junio de 1984

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “This was on an IBM mainframe and involved writing a script to extract all customers to a file, remove staff, contractors, their relatives etc, extract the random 1000 and create a database load file consisting of account ID, number of points and the date to be applied.”

    Pardon me for not being a mainframe guy (I'm a bit too young for all that), but surely that's like 1 SQL query?

    1. Killfalcon Silver badge

      It's probably doable with one, but if you're being cautious (or have low memory limits) you'd almost certainly want to do it in steps, so you can check each step in turn did what you thought it should. I mean, say you started all that and it failed because one of the tables was too long, or you misnamed the family-of-staff field, or the contractor flag turns out to be a Y/N text field not a Boolean and one entry is "Gibraltar", or whatever, you'd at least be able to see what had worked!

      Ironically, that extra complication is, IME, what leads to missing minor quirks like the date format being odd. You can get too focused on checking you're actually removed the contractors or what have you, especially if there does end up being any trouble-shooting.

  21. Sequin

    I worked on an old database system for the Home Office (UK Gov Department) that ran on an OS called BOS - It could not handle dates natively, so all date fields were actually character fields and the users had to enter date in YYYYMMDD HHMMSS format for them to work correctly in the daily reports that they had to produce for ministers. Most of the support on the system was fixing dates that had been entered incorrectly as there was no validation on input.

    1. Steve Aubrey
      FAIL

      "no validation on input" sounds very much like "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later . . ."

  22. Iamnotatechie

    Millennium + 2 bug

    In the run up to 2000 I found a system which coded years since 1970 in five bits to save space. Got it fixed in good time.

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