Hidden Embedded System Y2K Problem

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Some talk has existed on what I will call a Hidden Embedded System Y2K problem. For now lets define this as a catestrophic failure of an embedded system, due to a Y2K problem, when the embedded system has no apparent clock/calendar, and there is no apparent way to even set a clock/calendar (i.e. no keypad, or other entry device, and no communication line where the date might come in from. It seems that for a Y2K failure to occur on 1/1/00 (or other spike date), the device would need to have a factory set, battery backed, RTC, and still meet the conditions above. While we have found many Y2K problems at our site, we have not seen this, and are doubting whether it even exists in real life. Does anyone have an example of this type of problem device (provide manufaturer and model number please, not just a "I heard that ...")? Thanks in advance.

-- Anonymous, March 10, 1998


Good question, the nearest example we have seen of the "hidden" embedded clocks exists in pressure transmitters or similar pressure/temperature/movement sensors that are "set" by a technician when initialized.

These devices have no visible date or LCD that displays anything on the exterior. The technician sets the date and time with a plug in PC or instrument when intialized at system start-up. After initialization, the PC is unplugged and goes away.....Voila the chip is ticking and no evidence to the casual observer.

These type of "devices" will create some interesting work-arounds if we get into a black start up and they lose power. It will take a huge set of jumper cables and a lot of elves to light off some of the nucs or fossil plants!

-- Anonymous, March 10, 1998

One of the ways to spot some of these dates is the availability of a Coms port eg.RS232. This generally indicates a device can be connected to program/reprogram the device or to set a date. We have seen a number of such devices at our sites but can't give any further info at this stage.

-- Anonymous, March 12, 1998

Further to John Catterall's comment on the availability of com ports, as I understand it there should not be a problem with these devices due to the fact that a com port indicates there is probably a date involved. Also the device should be easy to check or test via the com port, and if necessary reprogrammed. This would lead me to believe that in this case nothing is really hidden.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 1998

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