Time formatting and storage bugs

In computer science, time formatting and storage bugs are a class of software bugs which may cause time and date calculation or display to be improperly handled. These are most commonly manifestations of arithmetic overflow, but can also be the result of other issues. The most well-known consequence of bugs of this type is the Y2K problem, but many other milestone dates or times exist that have caused or will cause problems depending on various programming deficiencies.

Year 1970

During the 1960s, some computer programs were written using just a single digit for the year, so that 0–9 represented the years 1960–1969. It was especially easy to write programs in the COBOL language with this limitation. The problem was identified and corrected before 1970. No consequences due to this problem are known to have occurred. The fix generally was to expand the year to just two digits, owing to limitations of the storage media common in that era, tab cards and magnetic tape.

Year 1975

On 4 January 1975, the 12-bit field that had been used for dates in the Decsystem 10 operating systems overflowed. There were numerous problems and crashes related to this bug while an alternative format was developed.[1]

Year 1989

Some mainframe programs were written to encode dates as the number of days since a 'zero date' of 1 January 1900, storing them as signed 16-bit binary integers. On 18 September 1989, these programs began to fail, the date being exactly 32,768 (215) days since the zero date. Values on and after this day do not fit into a signed 16-bit integer, but overflow and return negative values.

Year 1997

The Domain/OS clock, which is based on the number of 4-microsecond units that has occurred since 1 January 1980, rolled past 47 bits on 2 November 1997, rendering unpatched systems unusable.[2]

Year 1999

In the last few months before the year 2000, two other date-related milestones occurred that received less publicity than the then-impending Y2K problem.

First GPS rollover

GPS dates are expressed as a week number and a day-of-week number, with the week number transmitted as a ten-bit value. This means that every 1024 weeks (about 19.6 years) after Sunday 6 January 1980 (the GPS epoch), the date resets again to that date; this happened for the first time at 23:59:47 on Saturday 21 August 1999,[3] the second time at 23:59:42 UTC on 6 April 2019, and will happen again on 20 November 2038.[4] To address this concern, modernised GPS navigation messages use a 13-bit field, which only repeats every 8,192 weeks (157 years), and will not return to zero until near the year 2137.


In many programs or data sets, "9/9/99" was used as a rogue value to indicate either an unresolved date or as a terminator to indicate no further data was in the set. This raised issues upon the arrival of the actual date this represents, 9 September 1999.[3]

Year 2000

Two-digit year representations

Follow-on problems caused by certain temporary fixes to the Y2K problem will crop up at various points in the 21st century. Some programs were made Y2K-compliant by continuing to use two digit years, but picking an arbitrary year prior to which those years are interpreted as 20xx, and after which are interpreted as 19xx.[5]

For example, a program may have been changed so that it treats two-digit year values 00–68 as referring to 2000 through 2068, and values 69–99 as referring to 1969 through 1999.[6] Such a program will not be able to correctly deal with years beyond 2068.

For applications required to calculate the birth year (or another past year), such an algorithm has long been used to overcome the Year 1900 problem, but it has failed to recognise people over 100 years old.

Serial presence detect (SPD) EEPROMs

The SPD EEPROM on modern computer memory modules contains a single-byte binary-coded decimal (two digit) year-of-manufacture code at offset +93 (0x5D).[7] Due to the 18–24 month generational cycle in computer technology this should not be a problem.

Year 2010

Some systems had problems once the year rolled over to 2010. This was dubbed by some in the media as the "Y2K+10" or "Y2.01k" problem.[8]

The main source of problems was confusion between hexadecimal number encoding and BCD encodings of numbers. The numbers 0 through 9 are encoded in both hexadecimal and BCD as 0016 through 0916. But the decimal number 10 is encoded in hexadecimal as 0A16 and in BCD as 1016. Thus a BCD 1016 interpreted as a hexadecimal encoding erroneously represents the decimal number 16.

For example, the SMS protocol uses BCD encoding for dates, so some mobile phone software incorrectly reported dates of messages as 2016 instead of 2010. Windows Mobile was the first software reported to have been affected by this glitch; in some cases WM6 changed the date of any incoming SMS message sent after 1 January 2010 from the year 2010 to 2016.[9][10]

Other systems affected include EFTPOS terminals,[11] and the PlayStation 3 (except the Slim model).[12]

The most important such glitch occurred in Germany, where upwards of 20 million bank cards became unusable, and with Citibank Belgium, whose digipass customer identification chips stopped working.[13]

Year 2011

Taiwan officially uses the Minguo calendar, which considers the Gregorian year 1912 to be its year 1. Thus, the Gregorian year 2011 is the ROC year 100, its first 3-digit year.[14]

Year 2013

The unmanned Deep Impact spaceprobe lost communication with Earth on 11 August 2013, after a clock counted 232 deciseconds (tenths of seconds) since 1 January 2000

Year 2019

Second GPS rollover

GPS dates are expressed as a week number and a day-of-week number, with the week number transmitted as a ten-bit value. This means that every 1024 weeks (about 19.6 years) after Sunday 6 January 1980 (the GPS epoch), the date resets again to that date; this happened for the first time at 23:59:47 on Saturday 21 August 1999,[3] the second time at 23:59:42 UTC on 6 April 2019, and will happen again on 20 November 2038.[4] To address this concern, modernised GPS navigation messages use a 13-bit field, which only repeats every 8,192 weeks (157 years), and will not return to zero until near the year 2137.

Japanese calendar transition

On 30 April 2019, Emperor Akihito of Japan abdicated favoring his son Naruhito. As years in Japan are traditionally referred to by era names that correspond to the reign of each emperor, this resulted in a new era name, Reiwa (令和), following Naruhito's accession to the throne the following day. Because the previous emperor, Hirohito, died in 1989 and Akihito's reign mostly corresponded with the rise in the use of computers, most software had not been tested to ensure correct behavior on an era change. Furthermore, testing was complicated by the fact that the new era name was not revealed until April 1, 2019. Therefore, errors were expected from software that did not anticipate a new era.

Classic Mac OS

The control panel in Classic Mac OS version 7 only allows the date to be set as high as December 31, 2019, although the system is able to continue to advance time beyond that date.[15]

Year 2028

During the late 1970s, on Data General Nova and Eclipse systems, World Computer Corporation (doing credit union applications) created this date format;

16 bit date field:

  • 128 years = 7 bits (1900+128=2028)
  • 12 months = 4 bits
  • 31 days = 5 bits

Dates were directly comparable using unsigned functions.

No known instances of this format are in use today.

Year 2031

Palm OS uses both signed integers with the 1970 epoch, as well as unsigned integers with the 1904 epoch, for different system functions[16], such as for system clock, and file dates (see PDB format). While this should result in Palm OS being susceptible to the 2038 problem, Palm OS also uses a 7-bit field for storing the year value, with a different epoch counting from 1904, resulting in a maximum year of (1904+127) 2031.[17].

Year 2036

The Network Time Protocol has an overflow issue related to the Year 2038 problem, which manifests itself in 2036, rather than 2038. The 64-bit timestamps used by NTP consist of a 32-bit part for seconds and a 32-bit part for fractional second, giving NTP a time scale that rolls over every 232 seconds (136 years) and a theoretical resolution of 232 second (233 picoseconds). NTP uses an epoch of 1 January 1900. The first rollover occurs in 2036, prior to the UNIX year 2038 problem.[18][19]

Year 2038

Unix time rollover

The original implementation of the Unix operating system stored system time as a 32-bit signed integer representing the number of seconds past the Unix epoch: midnight UTC, 1 January 1970. This value will roll over on 19 January 2038. This problem has been addressed in most modern Unix and Unix-like operating systems by storing system time as a 64-bit signed integer, although individual applications, protocols, and file formats will still need to be changed as well.

DVB rollover

The Digital Video Broadcast system has an issue on 22 April 2038, when the 16 bits used to transmit Modified Julian Days used for electronic guide scheduling will restart from zero. The ETSI EN 300 368 specification mentions in Annex C that the provided MJD formulas are valid until 28 February 2100, but makes no mention of the limits imposed by the 16 bits used to transmit the resulting value.

Third GPS rollover

GPS dates are expressed as a week number and a day-of-week number, with the week number transmitted as a ten-bit value. This means that every 1024 weeks (about 19.6 years) after Sunday 6 January 1980 (the GPS epoch), the date resets again to that date; this happened for the first time at 23:59:47 on Saturday 21 August 1999,[3] the second time at 23:59:42 UTC on 6 April 2019, and will happen again on 20 November 2038.[4] To address this concern, modernised GPS navigation messages use a 13-bit field, which only repeats every 8,192 weeks (157 years), and will not return to zero until near the year 2137.

Year 2040

Early Apple Macintosh computers store time in their real-time clocks (RTCs) and HFS filesystems as an unsigned 32-bit number of seconds since 00:00:00 on 1 January 1904. After 06:28:15 on 6 February 2040, this will wrap around to 1904.[20] HFS+, the default format for all of Apple's recent Macintosh computers, is also affected. The replacement Apple File System resolves this issue.

ProDOS for the Apple II computers only supports two-digit year numbers. To avoid Y2K issues, Apple issued a technical note stating that the year number was to represent 1940-2039.[21] Software for the platform may incorrectly display dates beginning in 2040. A third-party effort is underway to update ProDOS and application software to support years up to 2924.[22]

Year 2042

On 18 September 2042, the Time of Day Clock (TODC) on the S/370 IBM mainframe and its successors, including the current zSeries, will roll over.[23] The UTC time will be a few seconds earlier, due to leap seconds.

Older TODCs were implemented as a 64-bit count of 2−12 microsecond (0.244 ns) units, and the standard base was 1 January 1900 UT. In July 1999 the extended TODC clock was announced, which extended the clock to the right (that is, the extended bits are less significant than the original bits). The actual resolution depends on the model, but the format is consistent, and will, therefore, roll over after 252 microseconds.[23]

The TODC value is accessible to user mode programs and is often used for timing and for generating unique IDs for events.

While IBM has defined and implemented a longer (128-bit) hardware format on recent machines, which extends the timer on both ends by at least 8 additional bits, many programs continue to rely on the 64-bit format which remains as an accessible subset of the longer timer.

Year 2048

The ATSC system will have an issue similar to the DVB issue described above after 2048 due to its use of signed 32-bit GPS seconds that begin from 6 January 1980.

The capacity planning logic in the ERP system SAP S/4HANA supports only finish dates up to 19 January 2048 (24855 days from 1 January 1980). This concerns e.g. the production, maintenance and inspection planning.[24]

Year 2050

Various Texas Instruments calculators of the TI BA II Plus, TI BA II Plus Professional, TI-83, TI-84 and NSpire families support a function named dbd to calculate the number of days between dates. This function accepts dates between 1950-01-01 and 2049-12-31 only. One potential area where this will start causing problems in 2020 is in the calculation of 30-year mortgages.[25][26]

Year 2079

Days 32,768 and 65,536

Programs that store dates as the number of days since an arbitrary date (or epoch) are vulnerable to roll-over or wrap-around effects if the values are not wide enough to allow the date values to span a large enough time range expected for the application. Signed 16-bit binary values roll over after 32,768 (215) days from the epoch date, producing negative values. Some mainframe systems experienced software failures because they had encoded dates as the number of days since 1 January 1900, which produced unexpected negative day numbers on the roll-over date of 18 September 1989. Similarly, unsigned 16-bit binary days counts overflow after 65,536 (216) days, which are truncated to zero values. For software using an epoch of 1 January 1900, this will occur on 6 June 2079.[27]

Year 2080

Some (if not all) Nokia phones that run Series 40 (such as the Nokia X2-00) only supports dates up to 2079-12-31 and will refuse to change dates further than 2079-12-31. The workaround is to use the year 1996 in lieu of 2080 as a compatible leap year to display the correct day of the week, date and month on the main screen.

Systems storing the year as a two-digit value 00..99 internally only (like many RTCs) may rollover from 2079-12-31 to the IBM PC and DOS epoch of 1980-01-01.

Year 2100

DOS and Windows file date API and conversion functions (such as INT 21h/AH=2Ah) officially support dates up to 2099-12-31 only (even though the underlying FAT filesystem would theoretically support dates up to 2107). Hence, DOS-based operating systems as well as applications that convert other formats to the FAT/DOS format, may show unexpected behavior starting 2100-01-01.

Another problem will emerge at the end of 2100-02-28, since 2100 is not a leap year, whereas many common implementations of the leap year algorithm are incomplete or simplified, and thus will erroneously assume it to be a leap year. This would cause the date to incorrectly roll over from 2100-02-28 to 2100-02-29, instead of directly to 2100-03-01.

Year 2106

Many existing file formats, communications protocols, and application interfaces employ a variant of the Unix time_t date format, storing the number of seconds since the Unix Epoch (midnight UTC, 1 January 1970) as an unsigned 32-bit binary integer. This value will roll over on 7 February 2106. (This storage representation problem is independent of programs that internally store and operate on system times as 64-bit signed integer values.)

Year 2108

The date timestamps stored in FAT filesystems, originally introduced with 86-DOS 0.42 in 1981 and carried over into MS-DOS, PC DOS, DR-DOS etc., will overflow at the end of 2107-12-31. The last modification date stamp (and with DELWATCH 2.0+ also the file deletion date stamp, and since DOS 7.0+ optionally also the last access date stamp and creation date stamp), are stored in the directory entry with the year represented as an unsigned seven bit number (0–127), relative to 1980, and thereby unable to indicate any dates in the year 2108 and beyond. The API functions defined to retrieve these dates officially only support dates up to 2099-12-31. This will also affect the Zip archive file format, as it uses FAT file modification timestamps internally.

Year 2137

GPS dates are expressed as a week number and a day-of-week number, with the week number initially using a ten-bit value and modernised GPS navigation messages using a 13-bit field. Ten bit systems would rollover every 1024 weeks (about 19.6 years) after Sunday 6 January 1980 (the GPS epoch), and 13 bit systems rollover every 8192 weeks. 13 bit systems will rollover to zero in 2137.[3][4]

Year 2262

The Go programming language has a UnixNano API that counts nanoseconds since 1970 as a 64-bit signed integer.[28] This value will overflow on 2262-04-11. This is a limitation of similar nanosecond timekeeping systems, such as the Timestamp object in Python pandas.[29]

Year 10,000

The year 10,000 will be the first Gregorian year with five digits. Although many people at first consider this year to be so far distant that a problem of this type will never actually occur, certain classes of calculations in disciplines such as astronomy and physics already need to work with years of this magnitude and greater. These applications also have to deal with the Year zero problem. All future powers of 10 years have the potential for similar problems.

Year 30,828

Beginning 14 September 30,828, Windows will not accept dates beyond this day and on startup, Windows will complain about "invalid system time". This is because the FILETIME value in Windows, which is a 64-bit value corresponding to the number of 100-nanosecond intervals since 1 January 1601 UTC [sic], will overflow its maximum possible value on that day at 02:48:05.4775808 UTC.[30]

Years 32,768 and 65,536

Programs that process years as 16-bit values may encounter problems dealing with either the year 32,768 or 65,536, depending on whether the value is treated as a signed or unsigned integer.

For the year 32,768 problem, years after 32,767 may be interpreted as negative numbers, beginning with −32,768.[31] The year 65,536 problem is more likely to manifest itself by representing the year 65,536 as the year 0.[32]

Relative time overflow


In Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista, TCP connection start information was stored in 1/100ths of a second, using a 32bit unsigned integer, causing an overflow and TCP connections to fail after 497 days.[33]


The Boeing 787 had a software issue where time was stored in 1/100ths of a second, using a signed 32bit integer, and the systems would crash after 248 days.[34]

Far-fetched problems

Certain problematic years occur so far in the future, well beyond the likely lifespan of the Earth, the Sun, humanity, and even past some predictions of the lifetime of the universe, that they are mainly referenced as matters of theoretical interest, jokes, or indications that a related problem is not truly solved for any reasonable definition of “solved”.

  • The year 292,277,026,596 (2.9×1011) and 584,554,051,223 (5.8×1011) problems: the years that 64-bit Unix time becomes negative (assuming a signed number) or reset to zero (for an unsigned representation).[35]
  • The year 5,391,559,471,918,239,497,011,222,876,596 (5.4×1030) and 10,783,118,943,836,478,994,022,445,751,223 (1.1×1031) problems: the years that 128-bit Unix time becomes negative (assuming a signed number) or reset to zero (for an unsigned representation).

Note: these year values are based on an average year of exactly 365.2425 days, which matches the 4/100/400 leap year rules of the commonly used Gregorian calendar. Additional adjustments to the calendar over intervals this long are unavoidable, as the actual year is currently slightly shorter (about 365.242374 days) than assumed, the length of Earth's orbit around the Sun changes over time (tropical years are currently becoming shorter at about 0.53 seconds per century), and in any case, all of these times far exceed the likely existence of the Earth. So the year numbers should be considered approximate.

Time zone and daylight saving time

Time zones and daylight saving time can cause trouble in computer applications when:

  • Communicating between places with different time zones or using the same device in a different timezone
  • Daylight saving time starts and ends, especially in the fall when the same time occurs twice
  • The time zone in a specific area changes or daylight saving time is adjusted, especially when there isn't enough time for software and firmware to be updated accordingly
  • The time shifts less or more than 1 hour forward in the spring
  • The start/end dates of summer time depend on other astronomical events
  • Daylight saving time is not adopted by everyone in the same place

See also


  1. Austein, Rob. "DATE-86, or The Ghost of Tinkles Past". The Risks Digest. ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  2. Latest News on the Date Bug
  3. Janis L. Gogan (9 August 1999). "Applications To The Nines". InformationWeek. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  4. "GPS week roll over April 6th". www.cyber.gov.au. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  5. Roger Deschner (21 December 2001). "Identifying and Correcting Dates with Two-Digit Years". University of Illinois at Chicago. Retrieved 19 January 2010. See "Example 1: 100 Year Fixed Window, 1973 to 2072"
  6. date – write the date and time, The Open Group Base Specifications Issue 6. IEEE Std 1003.1, 2004 Edition
  7. "JEDEC Standard No. 21-C – – Appendix D, Rev. 1.0 : SPD's for DDR SDRAM" (PDF). Retrieved 12 May 2011.
  8. "Bank of Queensland hit by "Y2.01k" glitch". 4 January 2010.
  9. "Windows Mobile glitch dates 2010 texts 2016". 5 January 2010.
  10. "Windows Mobile phones suffer Y2K+10 bug". 4 January 2010. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
  11. "Bank of Queensland vs Y2K – an update". 4 January 2010. Archived from the original on 8 January 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
  12. "Error: 8001050F Takes Down PlayStation Network".
  13. "2010 Bug in Germany". 6 January 2010.
  14. Pinyin news » Taiwan's Y1C problem
  15. "Technical Note TN1049 Approaching the Millennium: The Mac and the Year 2000". Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  16. "Palm OS® Protein C/C++ Compiler Language & Library Reference" (PDF). Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  17. "subject:%22Re%5C%3A Date limited to 2031%22". www.mail-archive.com. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  18. David L. Mills (12 May 2012). "The NTP Era and Era Numbering". Retrieved 24 September 2016.
  19. W. Richard Stevens; Bill Fenner; Andrew M. Rudoff (2004). UNIX Network Programming. Addison-Wesley Professional. pp. 582–. ISBN 978-0-13-141155-5.
  20. Apple Computer, Inc., Inside Macintosh, Volume II, Addison Wesley, 1985, p. 369
  21. "ProDOS Dates -- 2000 and Beyond". Apple, Inc. Retrieved 6 December 2019.
  22. "ProDOS 2.5". Retrieved 6 December 2019.
  23. Lascu, Octavian; Eckam, Hans-Peter; Kozakos, George; Pereira, Paulo Vitor (June 2013), Server Time Protocol Planning Guide, IBM Redbooks (4th ed.), IBM, p. 19, ISBN 0738438103, retrieved 11 August 2019
  24. "SAP note 2258792 (access to SAP Support Portal required)". 30 November 2018.
  25. Shepherd, Don (19 August 2010). "Need a better days between dates function".
  26. Shepherd, Don (7 May 2017). "Y2K problem for days-between-dates for TI-84 series calcs". Archived from the original on 13 August 2017. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
  27. J. R. Stockton (12 April 2009). "Critical and Significant Dates". Archived from the original on 7 September 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  28. https://golang.org/pkg/time/#Time.UnixNano
  29. http://pandas.pydata.org/pandas-docs/stable/user_guide/timeseries.html#timestamp-limitations
  30. Thulin, Anders (6 April 2013). "Interpretation of NTFS Timestamps". Forensic Focus. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  31. Top 10 Fun Reasons why you Should Stop Using Delphi, now!
  32. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 February 2008. Retrieved 21 January 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  33. https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/2553549/all-the-tcp-ip-ports-that-are-in-a-time-wait-status-are-not-closed-aft
  34. https://www.engadget.com/2015/05/01/boeing-787-dreamliner-software-bug/
  35. William Porquet (15 August 2007). "Project 2038 FAQ". Retrieved 5 March 2010.


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