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Definition: Year 2038 problem


Another date problem, which results from computing dates into the year 2038 and beyond in 32-bit operating systems. Unix and other C applications represent time as the number of seconds from January 1, 1970. The 32-bit variable (time_t) that stores this number overflows in the year 2038 and becomes January 1, 1970 again. However, even today, any date calculations forecasted beyond that time will be erroneous. Switching to 64-bit computing solves the problem.

Will It Be Serious?
Probably not for servers in a datacenter and computers that users routinely work with. By 2038, there should be hardly any 32-bit computers and 32-bit operating systems in operation. If there are, they will have to be replaced if their applications deal with dates. The problem might be 32-bit microcontrollers embedded in systems that fly under the radar. If they make decisions based on calendar dates, they will not work correctly. Stay tuned! See Y2K problem.