Taiwan’s Y1C problem

So, how did you ring in the year 95?

Yes, 95. Taiwan continues to make official use of a calendar tied to the founding of the Republic of China on January 1, 1912. That day began year 1.

For anyone doing a double take, that’s the Republic of China, better known these days as “Taiwan,” though Taiwan wasn’t a part of China in 1912. (And plenty of people would argue it’s not part of China now.) The People’s Republic of China was founded on October 1, 1949. National day in Taiwan, however, is marked not on January 1 but October 10, to commemorate the 1911 revolution that overthrew the Qing dynasty.

This everything-begins-again-with-me dating system, which reflects the habits of the imperial dynasties the ROC was supposed to have eliminated, isn’t just a quaint local custom. Its continued use is heading Taiwan toward its very own type of Y2K problem. In just a few years, when the ROC reaches the age of 100 and has to jump to three-digit years, Taiwan will likely experience what I like to call the Y1C problem. (Yes, I know: I’m mixing systems in that C represents hundred in a system that uses M, not K, for “thousand.” But that’s the best I could come up with. I’m open to suggestions for catchy but correct names.)

As far as I know, nothing is being done yet to address this. Slow are the wheels of Taiwan’s bureaucracy. To give an example of this, the Y2K problem certainly did not lack publicity, outrageous hype even; yet in 2005 the high-profile English Web site of the Office of the President gave the year as being “105.” About six weeks ago, when I gave a presentation to officials in charge of various government agencies’ Internet departments, listing some of the things wrong with the Taiwan government’s English-language Web sites, I specifically brought up the example of the presidential office’s howler.

I took it as a good sign that today, when I checked that site again, I saw the year given as 2006. But then I glanced at the Mandarin version of the same site. The year there: 106.

Before the year 100 comes in 2011, somebody remind me to find a bank outside Taiwan for what little money I have.

12 thoughts on “Taiwan’s Y1C problem

  1. Thanks, Alexander. I knew I should’ve learned Greek.

    Re. Flash, I quite agree, Amida. I put this in my report (old, incomplete version): “Flash could be appropriate on a few sites. But on most it is simply a bandwidth-wasting distraction. Many Flash images also violate other important guidelines, such as not having blinking text or distracting movement.”

  2. Pingback: Pinyin news » Blog Archive » Taiwan premier backs adoption of common years

  3. Pingback: Pinyin news » another nail in the coffin of nicknumbering

  4. http://pcofftherails101.blogspot.com/2010/01/is-there-y1c-computer-glitch-in-taiwans.html

    Is there a Y1C computer glitch in Taiwan’s future?

    by Webposter / Webposted January 32, 2011, aka Jan. 8, 2010…. (sic)

    Is Taiwan facing its own immanent Y1C computer problems next year when the ROC turns 100?

    When most of the Western world was getting ready for the year 2000 and all the Y2K computer problems the change-over from year 1999 to year 2000 might create — and lo and behold, nothing really happened and the change-over went smoothly with almost no glitches at all — Taiwan is currently facing its own Y2K problem. Call it Taiwan’s Y1C problem, because Taiwan’s government uses the year 1911 as its founding date as a republic — The Republic of China (or R.O.C.) — and since this year is year 99 in Taiwan using this calendar system, next year will mark year 100. And the extra digit just might cause some headaches for Taiwan’s computer systems that handle bank transfers, university tuition bills, insurance premiums, medical records and driver’s license applications.

    So get ready, Taiwan, for your own special Y2K problem — Y1C to be more exact!

    According to a post on Wikipedia, not to worry. Or, as the case might be, worry.

    “Since, generally speaking, only government offices use the official 1911 dating system, the impact on the private sector in Taiwan should be minimal,” the Wikipedia entry says. “However, the potential to affect government systems is another matter. Then again, on the other hand, looking at the bright side of things, a large number of government computers are already using a three-digit system for dates, with a zero being used as the first digit for years below 100 (Western year 2010 A.D. or earlier). Some government documents such as driver’s licenses already refer to years over 100; fortunately, nothing more than minor glitches have so far been reported.”

    According to David Reid, an Australian post-graduate student in Taipei, the blogosphere began discussing this issue four years ago.

    “The problem has been labelled ‘Y1C’ for Taiwan, and there is even a Wikipedia page about it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y1C_Problem,” he said in a recent email to this reporter. “A blog called Pinyin News wrote about it in 2006, or the year 95 as some might prefer. I expect the issue will cause some minor problems, but I doubt it will prove to be a disaster.:

    “However, what would be a good thing is if the entire date issue promoted more debate in Taiwan about whether using the ROC calendar is relevant or practical,” Reid added. “This is unlikely as the KMT will be obsessed with marking the centenary and unwilling to engage in debate about the issue.”

    Roger Chen, a computer science graduate student at Chung Cheng University in Chiayi, doesn’t think the problem will become too big or unmanageable.

    I think we can solve what problems come up,” he told this reporter. “However, it’s true, many banks and hospitals will have to stay on top of it. I don’t think it going to be a big problem, but then again, you never know.”

    An American expat in Taipei who works for a ROC government branch as an editor, thinks this is all much ado about nothing.

    “I don’t think there will be any problem on January 1, 2011, which will be Year 100 in Taiwan’s calendar system,” he said. “Every PC I’ve ever seen — and most of them have parts or are completely made by Taiwanese-owned companies — run a BIOS and OS that works on the Western calendar. I’ve never seen a BIOS set to the ROC calendar, and I’ve never seen a Taiwan-specific OS for that matter, just localized versions of Mac, Windows and Ubuntu. Then again, if I owned a PC software service company, I’d be spreading fear of the Y1C bug and then offering expensive plans to ‘cure’ it.”

    For the expat blogger who runs Pinyin News in Taiwan, things could get sticky, he said in looking into the future three years ago.

    “This [everything-begins-again-with-us] dating system — which reflects the habits of the imperial dynasties the ROC was supposed to have eliminated — isn’t just a quaint local custom,” he wrote in 2006. “Its continued use is heading Taiwan toward its very own type of Y2K problem. In just a few years, when the ROC reaches the age of 100 and has to jump to three-digit years, Taiwan will likely experience what I like to call the Y1C problem. (Yes, I know: I’m mixing systems in that C represents hundred in a system that uses M, not K, for ‘thousand.’ But that’s the best I could come up with. I’m open to suggestions for catchy but correct names.)”

    Pinyin News continued: “As far as I know, nothing is being done yet to address this. Slow are the wheels of Taiwan’s bureaucracy. To give an example of this, the Y2K problem certainly did not lack publicity, outrageous hype even; yet in 2005 the high-profile English-language website of the Office of the President gave the year as being 105. About six weeks ago, when I gave a presentation to officials in charge of various government agencies’ Internet departments, listing some of the things wrong with the Taiwan government’s English-language websites, I specifically brought up the example of the presidential office’s howler.”

    He concluded: “Before the [ROC] year 100 comes in 2011, somebody remind me to find a bank outside Taiwan for what little money I have.”

    This so-called Y1C computer problem is a local Taiwan issue. But will overseas media like the New York Times or the Guardian newspaper in London pay attention?

    Stay tuned. This story has legs. And the countdown to 2011 has already begun! Posted by dan at 11:52 PM

  5. re = Y1C

    ?????????99?1?22?
    ?????????0990000096?

    Dear Mr. dANNY,

    With regard to your inquiry, our Information Mnagement Center(IMC) replied as follows:

    Some government agencies application software used 2-digit to define ROC year fields.
    In ROC year 100, 2-digit fields would be overflowed and cause application software to function incorrectly, such as to produce wrong results on the screen, or print incorrect reports. We called that as “ROC Year 100 Problem in Information Systems” (Y100).

    IMC has noticed government agencies checking their software thoroughly and just correct the ROC year fields. Otherwise, IMC has a task force in charge of propagating and consulting, and set a Y100 web site (http://y100.dgbas.gov.tw) to facilitate the government agencies experience interchange and let public know government activities.

    Thanks for your concern. If you want to know more detail, please email

    Regards,
    IMC,
    DGBAS
    The Executive Yuan

  6. As generally speaking only governmental offices used the official system, Y1C computer bug impact on the private sector was minimal. nothing more than minor glitches were reported. One expat in Taipei reported his own recent experience with a minor Y1C problem, saying: “Sometime during the first week of the new year, I tried to use the telephone appointment system to arrange an outpatient visit at a large hospital in Taiwan. After punching in all the required information, the computer voice “confirmed” that I had made an appointment on ‘day zero of month zero’. My wife then put in a phone call to a real person the next day to make a real appointment. This person told my wife that the apparent problem I encountered had to do with ’2-digit year becoming 3-digit year’ (or something to that effect), and that the hospital expected to have it fixed by the end of the first week of January. If they could ‘fix’ it so quickly, I wonder now: Why didn’t they do what they were supposed to do before it caused inconvenience for countless people?”.

  7. An expat in Taipei reported his own recent experience with a minor Y1C problem: “Sometime during the first week of the new year, I tried to use the telephone appointment system to arrange an outpatient visit at a large hospital in Taiwan. After punching in all the required information, the computer voice “confirmed” that I had made an appointment on ‘day zero of month zero’. My wife then put in a phone call to a real person the next day to make a real appointment. This person told my wife that the apparent problem I encountered had to do with ’2-digit year becoming 3-digit year’ (or something to that effect), and that the hospital expected to have it fixed by the end of the first week of January. If they could ‘fix’ it so quickly, I wonder now: Why didn’t they do what they were supposed to do before it caused inconvenience for countless people?”.

  8. Wire service reporter in Taipei tells me today: “Dear Dan, Wish you have a good time in the New Year. Yesterday I just talked to my boss as the ROC calendar was moving into 100. No major computer-related disasters were reported, as feared by some analysts, even though there were sporadic complaints, including one that several people in Taichung alleged that there were errors in their outstanding housing loans. Anyways, it was a good news that nobody died from the feared Y-2K computer glitch.

    Bests,

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