1974-01-12 in disguise

The twelfth of January nineteenseventyfour I IPLed Atlas Copco’s computer alone for the first time. IPL initial Program Load is booting or starting an IBM mainframe computer. During the IPL you had to enter the date i.e. 74-01-12. This american computer  an IBM-360 with it’s american operating system (DOS/360 or maybe DOS/VS) talked american, so it expected the date in american date format 12/01/74 a small detail I had misunderstood. I thought these illogical americans just had reversed the order dayofmonth/month/year, the thought that the american date format was month/dayofmonth/year didn’t even occur to me so I started the computer with the date first of December nineteenhunderedseventyfour, and this was the  twelfth of January. Then I run the nightly batch of jobs.It took almost two weeks to correct the complete and utterly mess I had created. You may ask ‘were there no sanity test at all in the OS or the applications?’ No it wasn’t, there were a few cryptic messages on the console which didn’t tell me thing. In Sweden as in the rest of the more developed world we had since long adopted to standards of the SI system , conceived by the french after their great revolution 1789. After this my first (but not last) fuckup with computers I only used the YY-MM-DD format and if possible YYYY-MM-DD  when some years later I started to program myself.

1985 I installed my application DBAP (DataBase Administrations Processor) at the special materials department at an american company (which I forgot the name of) in Minneapolis. During the training they objected to my date format and asked me to change it into the american standard format which I bluntly refused. The day after one of the guys said ‘I been thinking about this date format and it’s actually great, you just sort on the field and it comes out right! Internally dates was stored as days from 1900-01-01, so that was correct no matter of display format, but the guy had grasped the idea. And he persuaded the other guys they should keep the european  date format. Did I plant a seed or did it fell into oblivion? I sure would like to know that and the name of the company, if you happen to know please drop me a line.

I’m not the only one who have fucked up due to different unit of measure standards. If the SI metric system had been universally adopted the Hubble Telescope would not have had glasses. Nowadays Nasa and the american scientific community try to use the metric SI system.

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