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Warnings from Microsoft and Unicode: Japan could suffer a Y2K-style crisis in 2019

Warnings from Microsoft and Unicode: Japan could suffer a Y2K-style crisis in 2019
[Photo: Lance Cpl. Achilles Tsantarliotis/Wikimedia Commons]

Japan could be on the brink of a Y2K-style crisis, 19 years after the fact.

Emperor Akihito of Japan is expected to abdicate the throne on April 30, 2019, making way for his son Naruhito to become emperor. That’s all well and good for Naruhito and royal watchers, but it’s not so good for the tech industry.

According to The Guardian, the Japanese calendar counts up from the coronation of a new emperor. Akihito took the throne in January 1989. Not only was that the beginning of the Heisei era, but it was also the beginning of the internet as we know it. That is where the problem lies. Tech companies are having to prepare for the Japanese calendar to switch over for the first time in their existence, causing concerns of a Y2K-style calendar glitch that could cause an internet meltdown and app-crashing mayhem.

More details:

  • Microsoft warned about this in April, noting “that most software has not been tested to ensure that it will behave with an additional era.”
  • Unicode has an even bigger problem. It can’t even prepare for the new date until it knows the character, but that won’t be released until February. “The UTC cannot afford to make any mistakes here, nor can it just *guess* and release the code point early,” Unicode wrote earlier this month.

In short, they are doing what they can, but it may not be enough to avoid the fallout from a millennium bug. Anyone want to buy Japan a Y2K preparedness kit?

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