Durée : 2 heures - L'usage d'un dictionnaire bilingue est autorisé pour l'ensemble de l'épreuve


1    For Marks & Spencer, the nightmare began with a tin of corn beef, rejected on the ground that it was 96 years out of date. The store's longest lasting food, its best-before date (1) ran into the new millennium, throwing the quality-control computer into confusion. It was found that the computer could recognise dates only in the 20th century. M&S had become one of the first casualties of millenium meltdown.

   After years of laughing at the scare stories, British industry has started to take the "Year 2000 Problem" much more seriously. It has become clear that almost every type of enterprise from coffee machine makers to the Defence Ministry, has software that cannot calculate past 1999.

3    The problem is simple. Software systems that store dates in dd/mm/yy format are unable to differentiate between 2001 and 1901, identifying both as '01'. For display purposes, this poses no problem: if a computer dates a letter 2/2/01, its reader will get the message. But in business, computers subtract one date from another and will throw up an error if told that an insurance policy starts in 97 and ends in 01. As the millenium approaches, this faulty arithmetic is plunging systems into a digital abyss.

4    On the whole, business had hitherto supposed that such a simple problem must have a simple solution. Seen as more of a headache than a time-bomb, the task was postponed. Rob Wirszycz, director-general of the Computing Services and Software Association, says that procrastination has taken computer systems to the brink of collapse.

5    He adds: "It has been put off for decades, and as a result, we're looking at the biggest threat to business continuity since terrorism. Correcting a line of data may be easy, but the sheer scale and complexity of the network makes correction a logistical nightmare."

6    Updating a system is done in three stages. First, an impact analysis works out which records need changing, and whether it is worth replacing the system altogether. Then, the operation is planned, which takes between three and five months. Lastly, the records are updated a matter of adding two digits and the whole system has to work in harmony. One line of overlooked data can send the system crashing again. 

7    The costs of correction vary. Royal Bank of Scotland paid £300,000 for the impact analysis alone. Data costs $1.50 per line to amend, but given that most systems contain hundreds of thousands of lines, the cost to large institutions can run into millions. One report estimated the worldwide costs of correction at $600 billion. 

8    Businesses are trying to find ways out. Coopers & Lybrand, the accountant, says more companies are selling loan portfolios (2) whose assets are less than the cost of correcting the system it is stored on. Others are thinking of mounting a legal challenge to software suppliers, saying that systems bought in the mid-Eighties should be expected to have a shelf life beyond 15 years.

9    In the meantime, the stampede to IT consultants has begun. The problem now, says Ross Jobber, an IT analyst at UBS, lies in finding enough programmers to meet demand. He says: "The old programs are written in a language called Cobol, which few of today's programmers have learnt. It is only used for fixing old systems, whereas most programmers want to be on the cutting edge. Also, they can earn five or six times more learning languages like C++, and get much more interesting jobs."

10   A solution to this manpower shortage is emerging. While UK programmers are selective about which languages they pick up, those in India, the Philippines and Malaysia are far less choosy.

11   Andersen Consulting, a leading Year 2000 specialist, is setting up a "solution centre" of 1,000 programmers  in the Phillippines, dedicated to solving the problem for clients around the world. Distance is no object. Andersen will deliver clients' software to the base, and after a few months of round-the-clock troubleshooting, the millennium-friendly version can be returned. Alternatively, the programmers can tap into the clients' software using modems. So the team could repair the software of a bank in Nottingham.

12   Changes like these will remain in place for years after the problem has been solved. Analysts say that the problem has acted as a catalyst to speed up outsourcing (3):  consultancies brought in to update the systems will know their clients' software inside out, putting them in pole position for further work.

13   Consultancies play down the impact on profits, saying companies that embark on the Year 2000 solution will be shelving other IT developments. But when the time comes to start again, IT consultancies will be starting the new millenium on a strong footing.

FraserNelson The Times, September 1996

(1) best-before date : date de péremption

(2) loan portfolio : portefeuille d'obligations

(3) outsourcing : sous-traitance logicielle 



1/ Rédiger en français un compte rendu intelligible et exploitable du texte, comportant 200 à 250 mots au moins. (12 points)

2/ Traduire :

- le paragraphe allant de The problem is simple ... jusqu'à into a digital abyss. (5 points);

- le paragraphe allant de Updating a system ... jusqu'à send the system crashing again. (3 points).

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