Running out of time
Iran's potential Y2K problems
By Ali Parandeh
August 3, 1999
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:
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
to obtain a copy.
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.
Arghavan Systems: PC hardware
Century Research Scientist
Ltd: Consultancy, PC sotware solutions, mainframes, VMS, etc.
Cyan GRS Ltd: Consultancy, PC software
Kafa Systems: PC hardware
Markaze Mashinhay Edary: PC hardware
Sadegh Negar: PC hardware solutions
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