It may be a point of little attention, as the millennium bug came with a lot of hoo-ha and went out with a whimper, but the impact it had on business was small because of all the hoo-ha, not in spite of it. And so it is with some concern that I consider operating system rollover dates as a potential hazard by software malfunction at major industrial operations such as nuclear power stations and warhead controls, which in worst case scenario, could of course have disastrous implications due to out-dated control systems.
The main dates of interest are 19 January 2038 by when all 32-bit Unix operating systems need to have been replaced by at least their 64-bit equivalents, and 17 Sept 2042 when IBM mainframes that use a 64-bit count need to be phased out.
Scare mongering? Perhaps not. While all modern facilities will have the superior time representation, I question if facilities built in the 70s and 80s, in particular those behind the old iron curtain were or ever will be upgraded. This raises a concern that for example the old soviet nuclear arsenal could become a major global threat within a few decades by malfunction if not decommissioned or control systems upgraded. It is one thing for a bank statement to print the date wrong on your latest bill due to millennium bug type issues, but if automated fault tolerance procedures have coding such as ‘if(time1 > time2+N) then initiate counter-measures’ then that is quite a different matter entirely.
I believe this is a topic which warrants higher profile lest it be forgot. Fortunately the global community has a few decades on its hands to handle this particular issue, though all it takes is just one un-cooperative facility to take such a risk rather than perform the upgrades necessary to ensure no such ‘meltdowns’ occur. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock…