Experts bemoan denial of '2000 bug'
October 13, 1996
Web posted at: 4:45 p.m. EDT
ATLANTA (CNN) -- The year 2000 is practically around the
corner, promising great new things. And maybe, some big new
problems for computer owners.
The Year 2000 Bug, for lack of a better term, is not really a
bug but a computer industry mistake.
It seems that many older business computers, especially
mainframes and their software, aren't programmed to compute a
future year ending in double zeros.
"The entire industry is in a state of denial," says Mike
Elgan an editor of Windows Magazine, who estimates the
problem could cost businesses a total of $600 billion to
When the clock strikes 12:01 a.m. in the year 2000, Elgan
says, 103-year-old people may get enrollment information on
kindergartens because a computer thinks they are 3 years old.
Food that is brand new could be ordered destroyed because a
computer thinks it is 90 years old.
Until now, mainframes were thought to be in the greatest
danger of a malfunction. But Elgan says 60 to 80 million
home and small business users who do accounting and math on
Windows 3.1 and older software are at equal risk.
Is there plenty of time for repair? Not for people who
already are using computers to deal with situations that will
carry into the next century -- such as trying to cut the
annual federal deficit to zero by the year 2002, for
"We would expect a number of applications to not only not
function by January 1, 2000, but start to process and produce
erroneous data," warned Devon Fischer of Mutual of Omaha.
"We can't wait to fix it. We have to start addressing the
So what's a user to do?
First, Elgan advises a quick check of one's PC:
Set the internal clock to 11:59 p.m. on December 31, 1999, or
a minute before the year 2000.
Then, turn the computer off and turn it back on. If the date
reads "1980," when the computer is restarted, then it has the
There are steps, however, that computer owners can take to
PC owners can upgrade their computer's BIOS or they can go
about the expensive business of upgrading their operating
If a user has already done that, and has Windows 95, he
should be in good shape, for another 99 years.
But that still leaves your software.
If it's old, its clock may be ready to run out in three short
years. And upgrading may be the only solution.
Correspondents Brian Nelson and Jed Duvall contributed to
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