The Millennium bug, also known as the Y2K problem, which caused much trouble for software developers in the late 1990s has returned to the headlines. Reports are that due to such a double digit date calculation bug a U.S. government agency has sent over 14,000 draft notices to men born in the 1800s.
"The Selective Service System mistakenly sent notices to more than 14,000 Pennsylvania men born between 1893 and 1897, ordering them to register for the nation's military draft and warning that failure to do so is 'punishable by a fine and imprisonment'," said an Associated Press report.
The agency realised that there had been a mistake when it started receiving calls from confused relatives last week. The error occurred as the state uses a two-digit code to indicate year of birth (eg. "93-97" instead of "1993-1997"). This resulted in the computer mistakenly sending notices to all males in its database born between 1993 and 1997 AND those born between 1893 and 1897.
Some of Uncle Sam's younger soldiers
"This has never happened before, and I'd bet money that it will never happen again," Pat Schuback, a spokesperson for Selective Service said. He also confirmed that the agency sent out 57,787 registration notices in June and 14,200 of those were sent to Pennsylvania males born during the 1890s.
NetworkWorld has collected a few humorous Tweets regarding the error:
- "Y2K: The gift that keeps on giving."
- "Find great-great-great granpa's teeth and wake him up."
- "U.S. government raising an army of zombies!"
- "The few, the proud, the long-dead."
- "I wonder if they got any response?"
The computer files of the men, who are almost certainly all dead and buried since the youngest surviving draftee would be turning 117 this year, have now been deactivated. Families have been told to simply ignore the draft notices and expect no further communications from the Selective Service.