In the past few years, much has been reported in the media about how all computers will “crash” with the dawn of the year 2000.
In fact, the problem even has a name—Y2K.
In a computerized world, one might think this could spell disaster for civilization as we know it. But will things really be so bad?
First of all, people should become familiar with what the problem actually is. The problem with the year 2000, as far as computers are concerned, is that most only use a two-digit code to signify the yearly date.
For example, 1997 would be considered “97” by the computer.
In the year 2000, the date would register as “00” and the system will assume it is 1900 because the two-digit date convention always assumes that the century is the 20th.
Additionally, there are systems and applications that do not recognize the year 2000 as a leap year. And if that’s not fixed, this will cause all dates after Feb. 29, 2000 to be off by one day.
Computers normally recognize leap years as any year divisible evenly by four, unless it is also divisible by 100. The year 2000 is divisible by 400, thus making it a special case that only occurs every 400 years—and something that was not taken into account when many computer programs were written.
The impact of the miscalculation would affect computerized systems, especially those of large institutions that take care of “time-sensitive data,” such as credit card accounts. Theoretically, on your first statement of the year 2000, you could owe 100 years of interest on a bill.
In fact, the Y2K problem may not be such a cause for alarm for most people at all. Many home computers won’t be affected by the change at all, said James Hedman, sales rep for Northland Computers here.
“Most people just use their computer for games, word processing, or other software that isn’t ‘time-sensitive,’” he noted. “The only computer users that will get directly affected will be anyone using ‘time sensitive’ material, such as that used with bookkeeping and other business applications.”
If one does use such programs, Hedman advised them to either have a specialist come in and check your business’ computer system, or contact the manufacturer of the software to find out what you can do.
Most companies or distributors have a toll-free product support line.
If it is necessary to change your hardware, it may be necessary to put a new mainboard into the computer you now have, or simply buy a Y2K-certified system which have been on the market for at least three years.
If you are doing any home accounting, are concerned about what may happen to bookkeeping programs running on it, and are familiar with the Microsoft Windows program, an easy way to prepare for any changes would be to simply access the “start” menu. Then “click” on your “settings” option and then the “clock/date” icon.
You then should have the option, if your computer isn’t already running on it, to alter the “year” portion of the date to four digits instead of just two.
Hedman stressed he thought the Y2K problem, as the media portrayed it, was really part of “millennium hysteria” and not something to fear, considering most of the important institutions affected by the changeover, such as credit card companies and banks, have had several years to adjust.
“Planes aren’t going to fall out of the sky . . . life will go on,” he joked.
Indeed, some local businesses already have taken preparations for the future after learning of the “crisis.” Marla Thompson, branch manager of the Northern Lights Credit Union here, said they recently got a whole new, updated system that’s definitely Y2K-certified.
“It’s a Pro Logic system . . . that downloads data from a data base in Mississauga,” she noted. “We’re now set for the future. [The new system] can deal with any enhancements we’ll need for quite a while.”
“We have had a ‘Y2K’ group from the corporation on [the problem] for a number of years now,” echoed Jim Kilmister, branch manager of the local Toronto Dominion Bank.
“They’ve gone through extensive testing to find out what will need to be done in all TD Banks,” he added.
Those with Internet access wanting to learn more about the Y2K phenomenon, and what can be done to offset it, can check out Microsoft’s web site at www.microsoft.com