Another GPS Y2K Problem Is Imminent
Date: Friday, March 08 @ 03:52:48 UTC
Make a note of April 6th in your diary, on that date it's feared that many older GPS systems may stop working as yet another hard-coded date bug is triggered. The first such issue affecting GPS occurred on Aug 21, 1999.
Like the Y2K bug that caused a great deal of worry (but thankfully few issues), this one is caused by the exact same issue, a hard-coded 10-digit timestamp that will rollover on April 6th. When that happens, some older systems may be unable to calculate a positional fix.
The problem, like all these data bug problems, originates in the way that devices calculate time. Starting with the date of January 6, 1980, GPS devices count weeks using a 10-bit number field hard-coded into the software. With two to the tenth power being 1,024, that means that GPS devices with a 10-bit number field can count up to 19.7 years which was Aug 21, 1999 when calculated from January 1980. On that date, most GPS devices started counting from zero again without issue but some didn't. Now another 19.7 years has passed and the issue rears its head one again.
It should only affect old devices, certainly those manufactured since 2010 have used a system that won't roll over for more than 157 years, but if you have and still use an older GPS and it stops working this is why.
The U.S. Naval Observatory released a FAQ to forewarn of this issue in 2017 which is available here.
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