Owners of Honda cars of a certain age – apparently somewhere between 10 and 16 years old – have spent the first few days of the New Year reporting a weird “millennium bug style” problem.
Apparently, for many cars that are a decade or so old, New Year’s Day 2022 was ushered in with their in-car clocks…
…showing 01 January 2002, exactly twenty years in the past.
In case you’re wondering what life was like back then, it probably won’t help to be reminded that one of the top songs of the year was the unforgettable Can’t Get You Out of My Head, by Aussie superpopstar Kylie Minogue.
(As Kylie said at the time, “La la la, la la la-la la/La la la, la-la la la-la” – a refrain that still ranks, according to some studies, as one of the top earworms in history.)
The burning question is, “Why?”
In the infamous millennium bug, the error jump was 100 years, and the reason was obvious: programmers often used just two digits for the century (i.e. storing AD1999 as 99) as a simple shortcut to save on RAM and disk space.
Don’t forget that even by 1999, most computers had just a few megabytes of RAM, and 20 years before that, they had at most a few kilobytes, amounts that are a jaw-dropping one thousand and one million times smaller than we take for granted today.
But every shortcut comes with a cost, and the Y2K shortcut paid the price that, because 99+1 = 100, and because 100 crammed into two digits comes out as 00…
…people were afraid that the date 31 December 1999 (Baby One More Time by B. Spears) might confusingly be followed by 01 January 1900 (I Can’t Tell Why I Love You But I Do by H. Macdonough).
But why just 20 years in Honda cars? Why only in certain older-but-not-too-old models? And why two decades exactly?
Even more weirdly, why would Honda say, as some journalists are alleging:
We have escalated the issue of the navigation clock in our team of engineers and they informed us that you will face the problem from January 2022 to August 2022 and then it will be fixed automatically.
Let the guesswork commence
One good guess, backed up by a commenter on UK IT news site El Reg (The Register) who goes by VRocker, is that this particular glitch is GPS-related
Until recently, GPS time data – based on ultra-precise time signals beamed out by an array of orbiting satellites designed in the 1970s, when every individual bit of bandwidth really counted, let alone every decimal digit – was limited to a date window 1024 weeks wide.