Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

2038

“Nobody is going to be using this stuff in 30 years.”

That’s what would tell ourselves every time we added wrote another one of these date/time bugs. Storage was still slightly precious, and it was slightly more work to do the right things, so we didn’t bother. I mean, what were the odds of any of that stuff still being in use thirty years later? We were writing code that kept track of which players owned which virtual items in which video games. Was anyone going to be playing those games that far in the future? And even if they were, will they care if the system was confused about when they got their items?

Well sometimes old software ends up getting used for some shiny new purpose. Turn that crank a few times, and the same code that was written to keep track of imaginary video game hats is used to keep track of when you bought your house. Or whether or not you’d been paid for your work. Or when your contract ended. Turns out people really do care about those things. Oops.

We should have known better. After all, we had just lived through “Y2K” and watched as a legion of retired COBOL programmers were called up to fix all the date-related bugs they wrote in the 1970s and 1980s. To say that we “watched” isn’t really accurate, though. I personally never met anybody who did that work. And when the clock ticked over on New Years Eve, it was a non-event. Nothing was broken that anyone can see. Maybe that was because the Y2K emergency repair effort was successful, or maybe it was because the whole thing was overblown to begin with. Either way nobody paid much attention and it had zero impact on my coding habits.

In a way it was all Gordon Moore’s fault. Before Moore’s Law crapped out in the 20s there was a constant churn of new tech disrupting old tech. Every five or ten years the whole stack would turn over and we’d replace all the old, buggy code-bases with brand new buggy code-bases. We were able to do that because every couple years we had twice as much CPU power, and RAM, and storage to play with, so we could actually take new approaches to things. What would have been impossibly slow in 2000 was standard practice in 2010. That was sure handy for us lazy programmers.

Once the computation gravy train ended so did the technology turnover. Upgrade cycles kept getting longer and eventually they took so long that they couldn’t be reasonably called “cycles” anymore. Tech that was supposed to have a short shelf life got picked back up and reused for all sorts of new things.

Computers were still getting cheaper, of course. It used to be that companies would spend a few billion on a chip fab and it would be obsolete a few years later. When the same fab can keep cranking out chips for a few decades, that investment gets spread out a lot more. The capabilities of the machines people were buying just weren’t improving like they used to. Next year’s code had to expect the same amount of horsepower as this year’s code.

I guess I share some of the blame too. Not for the shoddy code; that’s obviously all my fault. I mean blame for the fact that I have to be here to deal with it. My grand plan to go from being kinda rich to being really, really rich didn’t exactly work out. In hindsight that’s how real estate speculation usually goes. I just thought I was smarter than all those other people.

It sounded so good on paper. Obviously all the low-lying areas in Florida were doomed. Sure, there are some people still trying to save bits of Miami, but apart from those little islands only fish and alligators live down there now. So I figured I would buy a bunch of land further inland where sea level wasn’t expected to reach. ¬†All the people from the coast would move inland and drive up the prices and I would make a killing. So I sank most of my money into a few thousand acres of prime farmland west of Orlando. It was pretty cheap too because nobody wanted to live in the middle of Florida when they could live near the ocean.

What I didn’t expect were the hurricanes. So many hurricanes. And the big ones were so big. After ten years of getting pounded by hurricanes most people decided they liked not having their house blow away more than they liked living in Florida, and they all moved further north. I think Hurricane Britney was the last straw. My property spent almost two years inside a federal disaster area and it wasn’t all that nice to begin with. I rented the land to a FEMA¬†refugee camp for a while, and eventually ended up selling it all for pennies on the dollar. Easy come, easy go, I guess.

So now I’m sitting here digging through code I forgot about twenty years ago. Meanwhile most of my old game industry buddies are goofing around in their workshops trying to build robot butlers or flying cars. A couple of them are even getting ready to move to Mars. I’m supposed to be digging through code anyway. I guess I should get back to it.

At least I have my health. Gordon Moore and K. Erik Drexler didn’t come through for me, but Aubrey de Grey sure did. Maybe I’ll even still be around in 2106 when we get to do this all over again. Whee!