Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
While no significant computer failures occurred when the clocks rolled over into 2000, this might not be the case with the Y2K38 bug. Even if this problem only affects Unix-like operating systems, if true, will be enough to cause massive disruption to the computer world and real world alike, as we know them.
In a nutshell, the year 2038 problem basically consists of the fact that Unix-like operating systems represent time as the number of seconds since 00:00:00 January 1, 1970. On most 32-bit systems, the time_t data type used to store this second count is a signed 32-bit integer. The latest time that can be represented in this format, following the POSIX standard, is 03:14:07 UTC on Tuesday, January 19, 2038. Times beyond this moment will “wrap around” and be represented internally as a negative number, and cause programs to fail.