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Last in an occasional series on Japan’s Y2K preparedness

Staff writer

Legions of software engineers are working desperately to fix the Year 2000 problem as the Dec. 31 deadline approaches.

But it is impossible to correct all errors, or check all of the lines of coding in complex programs, according to Kent Ragen.

“I definitely think it’s impossible. Problems will occur,” Ragen, president of Reasoning Software K.K., the Japanese subsidiary of Reasoning Inc. of the United States, said in a recent interview with The Japan Times.

The California-based company checks for Y2K bugs in programs that have already been fixed by engineers but have yet to go through time-consuming trial tests.

Reasoning Inc. has inspected around 300 million lines of computer software code in 125 different projects using software tools it developed itself, Ragen said, and it has found errors in every project but one so far. “Most companies, especially in Japan, have fixed the code with their hands, going through line by line,” he said.

Inevitably they miss something, he said. “The average is about somewhere around three to four errors for every 10,000 lines of code,” Ragen said.

Errors can be found in trial tests, but they require more time, money and personnel than inspections with checking tools, according to Ragen.

Ragen said he believes Y2K errors will not cause an instantly devastating disaster. But over time, bad data will pile up in a company’s computer system little by little, and it may eventually break down the whole system, just as termites destroy a house, he said.

In Japan, Ragen has found middle management in charge of computer systems and information technology, whereas U.S. firms typically put them in the hands of top management, or those closer to the top.

The lack of involvement of top management here is one reason why Japanese firms lag behind their U.S. counterparts in fixing the Y2K problem, Ragen said.

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