Shortly after the Y2K fiasco, I discovered one of my co-workers was still writing programs that used 2-digit years, as if we hadn't just had to do ridiculous amounts of unneccessary work to keep our systems from collapsing (I am proud to say that I have never written a program in my life that couldn't survive a completely predictable event that had been obviously coming for at least 100 years). Rather than call out the individual person who had not learned the lesson, I wrote this email and sent it to the entire computer programming group. It is not strictly accurate, but had the desired effect.

I'm sure you've all taken my recommendation to heart and never use any date notation other than the International Standard (ISO 8601, as recommended by the UN as well as the HIPAA committe and every single data processing standards body that currently exists).

Anyway, I thought you might be amused to know that the United States is *not* the only nation that teaches children to use fundamentally stupid and broken date formats. Here are some of the moronic customs taught in other lands:

Russia, Germany, Finland and the Czech and Slovak republics use, which is not entirely retarded since you can always sort it backwards.

Great Britain, Australia, Argentina, and Brazil use dd/mm/yyyy, which would be fairly sensible if they didn't also use dd/mm and dd/mm/yy. My grandfather was born in '99 and so was my son!

Norway uses dd/mm-yyyy and dd/mm-yy. I have no idea why they adopted unique delimiters, but it makes the use of a two-digit year slightly less shortsighted.

Belgium, France, Spain, Denmark, Portugal, and the Netherlands use dd-mm-yyyy which again is not completely asinine because you can sort it backwards at only a small penalty in efficiency.

Switzerland uses mm.dd.yyyy which causes great confusion for their more intelligent neighbor nations. And of course any format that doesn't proceed from the largest unit (year) to the smallest (day) probably costs eight times the CPU power to sort (more if you don't zero-pad).

Italians occasionally use dd-mmmm-yy with roman numerals for months, because apparently they don't quite "get" the whole concept of "efficient sorting" at all. This is so clabber-brained that the US notation would actually be LESS imbecilic.

The Japanese at times use y/mm/dd where y is the year of the emperor's reign (currently 16 Heisei Era) which makes a completely numeric representation impossible (since you have to specify the Imperial Era if you want your work to last more than one generation). To make matters worse the proclamations that announce era changes (for instance, from Meiji to Taishou) are so couched in archaic formula that it is impossible to pinpoint exactly which day is the changeover date, and the first year of any era is never referred to numerically (it is always denoted by the word "GANNEN" instead). There are Japanese government documents that are required to use this inane notation, which in the age of computers is essentially a puerile affectation.

Latin America and the USA use mm/dd/yy and mm/dd (and occasionally mm/dd/yyyy) because we can't stand to do anything the way the British do it, even though our way is inutterably boneheaded and costs us billions of dollars every year.

French Canada, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Sweden and Poland use yyyy-mm-dd which you will note is actually the ISO standard. I guess somebody was bound to get it right, but I would not have guessed that these particular regions would do so. The Quebecois are probably doing it just to spite us.

So, I know you're all wondering, how many ways can we interpret 02/02/02?

Well, there have been 125 Japanese Emperors, so that's 125 ways right off. Then there's the whole "how irresponsible can we be with the month field" issue, so that gets us mm/dd/yy and dd/mm/yy and yy/mm/dd and yy/dd/mm (there's probably some culture out there that uses mm/yy/dd or dd/yy/mm, which is sort of the pinacle of thickheadedness, but I haven't yet run across any poor souls that have been so miseducated) so that's 129. Then there's that two-digit year... hmmm, we'll throw out future dates and everything BC so the number doesn't go instantly to infinity... still, that's another 21.

So we've got about 150 ways to interpret 02/02/02 (or at least 25, anyway, after we throw out the Japanese imperial poppycock as arrant nonsense) without even really trying.

Now, you may think I've used up all the different words meaning "stupid" at this point. You'd be wrong! I have a thesaurus! I'm saving about 12 for the next program I see that uses a 2- digit year field, and another 5 for whoever I next see using the foolish, insensate, hebetudinous, ludicrous, unintelligent, illogical, unreasonable, feeble-minded, harebrained mm/dd/yyyy format.

Thank you and goodnight.