The ‘Emperor bug’ that could send Japanese computers haywire next year

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Japan


When the current emperor steps down in April next year, the Japanese calendar will move into a new era – and it could cause havoc with the country’s computer systems.   

The calendar is based on era names that coincide with the rule of its emperors, and the country has been in the Heisei or ‘peace everywhere’ era since Japan‘s current emperor, Akihito, took the throne in 1989. 

However, he is is set to step down on April 30, 2019.

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Japan's Emperor Akihito, took the throne in 1989. However, he is is set to step down on April 30, 2019.to: The calendar is based on era names that coincide with the rule of its emperors, and the country has been in the Heisei or 'peace everywhere' era since Japan's current emperor, Akihito, took the throne in 1989.

Japan’s Emperor Akihito, took the throne in 1989. However, he is is set to step down on April 30, 2019.to: The calendar is based on era names that coincide with the rule of its emperors, and the country has been in the Heisei or ‘peace everywhere’ era since Japan’s current emperor, Akihito, took the throne in 1989.

THE JAPANESE  CALENDER

The calendar is based on era names that coincide with the rule of its emperors, and the country has been in the Heisei or ‘peace everywhere’ era since Japan’s current emperor, Akihito, took the throne in 1989. 

However, he is is set to step down on April 30, 2019.

He will be succeeded by his heir, 57-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito. 

The central government is planning to announce the name of the next era after a ceremony to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Emperor Akihito’s enthronement on Feb. 24, 2019, government sources said. 

Akihito, who turns 84 on December 23 and has had heart surgery and treatment for prostate cancer, said in rare remarks last year that he feared age might make it hard for him to fulfil his duties.

He will be succeeded by his heir, 57-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito.

As his reign coincided with the explosion of computers, software developers have not had to worry about changing the era – until now.  

The central government is planning to announce the name of the next era after a ceremony to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Emperor Akihito’s enthronement on Feb. 24, 2019, government sources said.

The government is concerned that naming the new era before the anniversary ceremony could prematurely shift the spotlight from the Emperor to his successor, Crown Prince Naruhito.

Anne-Léonore Dardenne, an independent analyst of Japanese domestic and international affairs, told New Scientist that in particular the computer systems run by postal service, banks and the register of residential addresses maintained by local governments, may grind to a halt, as they rely on looking for the era date in order to work.  

Customers leave a major Australian bank in Sydney January 4. Australian banking and investment markets appear to have slipped through the Y2K net with no apparent problems related to the potential computer glitch on the first business day of the year.

Customers leave a major Australian bank in Sydney January 4. Australian banking and investment markets appear to have slipped through the Y2K net with no apparent problems related to the potential computer glitch on the first business day of the year.

Customers leave a major Australian bank in Sydney January 4. Australian banking and investment markets appear to have slipped through the Y2K net with no apparent problems related to the potential computer glitch on the first business day of the year.

It has already been announced tax documents will continue to use the Heisei-era date, but include a note that the document is officially certified until they fix the problem. 

The Tokyo prefecture will use western dating systems on official documents alongside the traditional Japanese style. 

Microsoft says it has also started to prepare for the era change.   

The Windows 10 Spring Release includes a placeholder for the era expected to begin on 1 May, 2019. 

‘Fortunately, this is a rare event, however it means that most software has not been tested to ensure that it will behave with an additional era,’ it admits. 

However, Microsoft says there is a lot of room for things to go wrong.

‘The magnitude of this event on computing systems using the Japanese Calendar may be similar to the Y2K event with the Gregorian Calendar. 

‘For the Y2K event, there was world-wide recognition of the upcoming change, resulting in governments and software vendors beginning to work on solutions for that problem several years before 1 Jan 2000. 

‘Even with that preparation many organizations encountered problems due to the millennial transition.’





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