IN RE THE Y1K PROBLEM
To: Imperator Caesar Marcus Iulius Phillipus Pius Felix Invictus Augustus
From: Lucius Trebonius, Prefect of the AIM Problem
Date: One day before the Ides of March, Year of the City Nine Hundred Ninety-Nine, in the Third Year of Your Reign
Your Sacred Majesty's predecessor the noble Gordianus had com-missioned a study of this matter. As Caesar is aware, in a very short time we shall be beginning upon the year One Thousand since the Founding of the City. Other departments of the government have ably taken on the task of organizing the great and fabled Games that shall raise your fame to rank with that of the Gods.
This department, is concerned with a less obvious, but significant matter: the Year One Thousand [Annus I Mille] problem. Calculations have been being made using only two rows of beads on our abacuses to indicate the year. This has worked well thus far. But, with the spread of abacus use, it meant all our abacuses are built this way.
The rolling over of digits means a problem. There is no century column on most existing abacuses. Back during the reign of the Divine Severus, wire and beads were at a premium, and it was convenient to build abacuses with only two wires for the year. No one believed that the abacuses would still be in use by now.
However, during the turmoil of the succeeding years, old abacuses were used far beyond their designed life, and instead of introducing new models, new construction was done using existing patterns. As a result, the models currently in use still have only two wires for the year figure.
Already, some problems have been noted. The famous case of Spurius Ventidius, the retired centurion whose pension was recalculated to nothing, on the basis of his being only one year old, was an anomaly, but similar problems are beginning to crop up in calculating depreciation on army supply wagons and estimating future construction bills on aqueducts. The Office of the Privy Purse has already rejected a bill for ninety-seven years' interest due to them on a four-year loan from the Privy Purse to Thomasus and Sons of Antioch they are honest, but you have to watch them.
A crash program in adding new wires to existing abacuses has been put into effect, and new designs have been established with sufficient resources to avert the AIM Problem. Nevertheless, the entire corps of staffers will remain close at hand in the Imperial Palace on the day before the Kalends of January, just in case.
With greatest felicitations for a long and happy reign.