Systems Testing Logo

True Tales of Testing

Editor's note: The content on this page, created nearly 10 years ago, remains surprisingly popular, so we have kept it online for your enjoyment.

The bizarre, humorous and ever-changing world of ST&QA. These stories are true unless otherwise indicated. The names have been changed (or left out) where appropriate.

Preparing for Year 2000
Year 2000 Fictional Tale
Jones, Smith or Brown
Preparing for Year 2000

A client recently updated their system to comply with Year 2000 requirements. Operators were instructed to enter system dates in the form: mm/dd/ccyy. The 'cc' piece was new to the operators and they were told that it would be used for century information. On the first production run, the operator was instructed by the program to enter the date and he remembered his instructions. Unfortunately there was a little problem because he knew we were in the 20th century and entered the date as 11/01/2096 with the obvious consequences. (The system could probably use a reasonableness check.)

A Year 2000 Fictional Tale

There once was a COBOL programmer in the mid to late 1990's. For the sake of this story, we'll call him Goovoo. After years of being taken for granted and treated as a technological dinosaur by all the UNIX programmers and Client/Server programmers and website developers, Goovoo was finally getting some respect. He'd become a private consultant specializing in Year 2000 conversions. He was working short-term assignments for prestige companies, traveling all over the world on different assignments, and making more money than he'd ever dreamed of.

He was working 70 and 80 and even 90 hour weeks, but it was worth it. Soon he could retire. Several years of this relentless, mind-numbing work had taken its toll on Goovoo. He had problems sleeping and began having anxiety dreams about the Year 2000. It had reached a point where even the thought of the year 2000 made him nearly violent. He must have suffered some sort of breakdown, because all he could think about was how he could avoid the year 2000 and all that came with it.

Goovoo decided to contact a company that specialized in cryogenics. He made a deal to have himself frozen until March 15th, 2000. This was a very expensive process and totally automated. He was thrilled. The next thing he would know is he'd wake up in the year 2000; after the New Year celebrations and computer debacles; after the leap day. Nothing else to worry about except getting on with his life. He was put into his cryogenic receptacle, the technicians set the revive date, he was given injections to slow his heartbeat to a bare minimum, and that was that.

The next thing that Goovoo saw was an enormous and very modern room filled with excited people. The were all shouting "I can't believe it!" and "It's a miracle" and "He's alive!". There were cameras (unlike any he'd ever seen) and equipment that looked like it came out of a science fiction movie.

Someone who was obviously a spokesperson for the group stepped forward. Goovoo couldn't contain his enthusiasm. "it is over?" he asked. "Is 2000 already here? Are all the millennial parties and promotions and crises all over and done with?" The spokesman explained that 2000 had gone, but that there had been a problem with the programming of the timer on Goovoo's cryogenic receptacle - it hadn't been year 2000 compliant and it was March 15th, 2099, not 2000. But the spokesman told Goovoo that he shouldn't get excited as someone important wanted to speak to him.

Suddenly a wall sized projection screen displayed the image of a man that looked very much like Bill Gates. This man was Prime Minister of Earth. He told Goovoo not to be upset. That there was world peace and no more starvation. That the space program had been reinstated and there were colonies on the moon and on Mars. That technology had advanced to such a degree that everyone had virtual reality interfaces which allowed them to contact anyone else on the planet, or to watch any entertainment, or to hear any music recorded anywhere.

"That sounds terrific," said Goovoo. "But I'm curious. Why is everybody so interested in me?"

"Well," said the Prime Minister, "2100 is just around the corner and it says in your files you know COBOL."
Submitted by Shawn Prestridge


One student in class related this call to the support center: The issue became a discussion of whether or not the system had a bug QA should have identified in testing. The problem centered around a Human Resource System developed in the United States and installed in the Middle East. The problem: the employee profile only provided room for one spouse.

UPDATE: This story has an added twist. Some people are legally required to provide support for a spouse and one or more ex-spouses. Consequently, Human Resource Systems may need additional fields regardless of where they will be installed.

Jones, Smith or Brown

In a similar situation, installing a Human Resource System in the Caribbean presented problems because it was keyed to a social security number or last name. The population did not use identifying numbers at all, let alone a number similar to an SSN or SIN. To compound the problem, most of the population shared just three last names.