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Running out of time
Iran's potential Y2K problems

By Ali Parandeh
August 3, 1999
The Iranian

The Y2K bug in Iran is no different than in other countries, except that it has an extra twist. All existing technology and equipment in Iran have been purchased from abroad, and all are built and programmed with a Gregorian calendar. In some cases a software has been written for converting the dates into the solar calendar, causing additional concerns.

Iran's Y2K problem is primarily in three forms:

1. Hardware
2. Software
3. Embedded systems

Iran has only started using personal computers on a relatively wide scale in the past decade, therefore the problem is not as serious as in North America or Europe. But in most cases the computers employed in Iran are equipped with the 486 chip or below. While the hardware may be fixed easily, the embedded systems and the software present the biggest problems.

The use of embedded systems are limited to a few certain areas and the industry. Industries with automated as opposed to mechanical control systems are probably most at risk and likely to face a problem. Although only a small number of such cases are known to exist, it could still have a severe effect on production.

The use of embedded systems in the petrochemical industry is very widespread and while work is being carried out on these systems, if not fixed on time, it could have the heaviest impact on Iran's industry.

Y2K & industry

The main sectors with embedded-system problems are the oil, gas and petrochemical industries, followed by the automotive and electronic industries and most probably medical equipment and drug manufacturers.

While many companies have started fixing their Y2K problems, there are still many others which have no. Those companies which are dependent on the production of others will most likely suffer from the Y2K bug, even if they have fixed their own problem.

Apart from the embedded systems there are various computer systems that are in operation for accountancy and inventory purposes. The hardware part can be upgraded in no time. The software, on the other hand, may take a little longer.

Fortunately the Iranian calendar being on year 1378, can be fixed with a slight adjustment, but this is only a short term remedy (see Y1.4K bug). If the software/hardware of these units are note fixed on time, this could create much havoc as no proper data can be obtained from the computers.

Iran´s smaller companies which use computers for mainly accounting and inventory purposes will probably be amongst the worst affected by the Y2K bug. Currently the average manager is ignorant about the Y2K bug and the general attitude is that it will be dealt with when it happens.

Y2K & the public

Although the above may not affect everyday life, one area of great concern is the health care system. Many hospitals are simply not aware of the fact or do not have the budget for such replacements and repairs.

Although routine laboratory work and hospital care should not be an immediate concern, the reliability of more advanced units such as ICUs, CCUs and other life operational units is questionable, in particular during the transition period.

Apart from the health care system, everyday life may be affected at work by faulty systems and computers. While many government organizations are fixing their Y2K bug, many others have not even started. Problems certainly are more likely to occur when you need to retrieve data from some Institutes.

A list of the various ministries and government organizations has been provided with a contact name. Most other equipment such as cars, telephones, central heating, elevators and the like are electro-mechanical and therefore the chances of a Y2K bug popping up in them is insignificant.

Some disturbances and interruptions may occur in the telephone (including mobile phones) and electricity networks but it is expected that these will be short lived, given that many areas are still operated by hand or electro-mechanically.

A report on Y2K problems facing Iranian government ministries.and offices is expected to be completed by mid-August. Those who are interested can send an e-mail to to obtain a copy.

Y1.4K bug

Currently most software obtain or calculate the Iranian year by subtracting 21 from the last two digits of the Gregorian calendar, in other words 99-21 = 78. However at the turn of the century this number will become a negative number: 00-21 = -21. This allows Iran to buy time. But if not dealt with properly and left as a two digit number, the problem will reoccur when we reach the Iranian year 1400 .

What must be done?

There are several companies in Iran that provide solutions and consultancy. Those providing solutions are most probably going to make you believe that you have to change entire computer units. To save money, they should hire consultants first in order to get a proper evaluation.

Basically, all appliances that are dependent on dates most probably need fixing. Nearly all computer hardware, operating systems and software most probably need fixing as well. Problems have been encountered even with Pentium-based computers.

Also given that many of the software written in Iran is based on MS-DOS, they will also encounter problems even if the hardware is fixed. Many companies in Iran offer a card fix for the computer hardware, however this is not enough and in many cases not required at all. There are several software fixes which will work out cheaper in the end and in some cases work as a fix for both the hardware and the operating system.

Problem solvers

Arghavan Systems: PC hardware solutions
Century Research Scientist Ltd: Consultancy, PC sotware solutions, mainframes, VMS, etc.
Cyan GRS Ltd: Consultancy, PC software solutions
Kafa Systems: PC hardware solutions
Markaze Mashinhay Edary: PC hardware solutions
Sadegh Negar: PC hardware solutions

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