In our spring issue we addressed the problem in our article "Perspectives on the Year 2000 Dilemma." In the article, state officials discussed Pennsylvania's initiatives; Penn State staff and faculty revealed what's being done at Penn State and offered their perspectives. The spring issue is available at http://cac.psu.edu/news/spring97.pdf on the World Wide Web.
In this issue we invite you to see if your computer is ready for the 2000 rollover. In future issues we'll revisit this topic with helpful information and news.
A note of caution: Jeff Almoney, Director of the Advanced Information Technologies group at the CAC, recommends that you make sure that you have a good backup of all your files and databases before attempting this test. Some systems do not allow you to
set the clocks backward after setting them forward.
Set the date on your personal computer to December 31st 1999. Set the time to 23:58hrs (11:58pm) and then POWER OFF the computer. Wait at least 3 minutes and then turn the PC back on. Check the date and time. It SHOULD be a minute or two past midnight, on the morning of Saturday, January 1st 2000 . . . My computer responds with January 4th . . . 1980. Not exactly what you would expect.
The problem lies somewhere in your computer. If the system has the wrong date, then all your software has the wrong date.
The good news is that this was only a test. The bad news is that on Dec 31st 1999, it won't be, it'll be painfully real.
More than 80,000,000 PCs will be switched off as people leave work. When they return, their computers will be all but useless.
How bad is the problem? How many PCs will really fail? Based upon predictions of people involved in the Year 2000 problem, upwards of 80% of existing PCs are unreliable.
On Jan 1st 2000, more than 80,000,000 PCs will think the Berlin wall is still standing and that Trudeau is still the prime Minister of Canada...
When this test was first explained to me, I didn't listen properly. I changed the date, and waited. . . The date and time behaved properly. . . I "knew" the operating system could not be wrong!
Powering off the machine during the roll-over makes all the difference.
Each PC responds differently to the year 2000. If I reset it to Jan 1st 2000, then it rolls over to Jan 2nd 2000 correctly. Now all I have to do is remember to reset my computer on Saturday, 1st January 2000. Other PCs will not accept the year 2000, refusing to believe it exists.
All your applications, spreadsheets, accounting packages, day-timers, e-mail systems, even backup cycles will be at risk a few years from now, unless you solve the problem.
What can you do? You've several options. Replace all your computers. A few letters to vendors explaining how you're a tad upset . . . . might be appropriate.
Apply a kludge to your operating system, Have it read 1980 from the BIOS and add 20 years. Trouble is, each PC fails differently, making sure all your PCs have been fixed, and remain fixed, will be a logistical nightmare.
Another option is, do nothing. Why? Because, the problem won't take effect for a few years; you'll probably be in a different job; someone else will fix it; it can't be as bad as I make out etc. etc.
In the meantime your problem is growing. Right now, a new PC is being installed. Is it Year 2000 compatible? What about the PCs you buy tomorrow, next week and in 1996?
I think the 80% failure rate is too high. This is not based upon any lack of faith in predictions. It's more an unwillingness to believe such a "stupid" error could be so prevalent. On the other hand. . . I have great faith in the laws of Murphy. If anything can go wrong. . .
(Actually I was wrong. . . after this article was printed in Information Canada, I received more than 140 responses. . . 97% of the PCs tested. . . failed. PdJ)
Did you test your computer(s)? How many failed? Now do you believe in the Year 2000 Date Problem?
The power of this little demonstration lies in its simplicity. It doesn't take much to imagine all the PCs in the world. . . all of them. . . producing some very strange reports. Does this place you at risk?
Where exactly does the problem lie? Is it in the RTC? (Real Time Clock) or in the BIOS? or in the operating system? Does it matter? The fact is, an error in processing the Year 2000 will occur more than 80,000,000 times.
Many folks point out that a) the computer on their desk will be replaced before the Year 2000, b) that someone will fix it with a software patch, c) that the next release of the operating system will solve the problem!
All of these observations are true. . . but they don't erradicate that this error was replicated millions of times. . . now. . . ask yourself the question. If the manufacturers of PCs could make this type of error. . . what leads you to believe your accounting software is safe... and will handle the Year 2000 correctly?
Over the past six years, Mr. de Jager has been active in bringing the Year 2000 problem to the awareness of both the IS community and the business world at large. He has written numerous articles on the subject, including the ground-breaking Doomsday 2000 article, published in Computerworld Sept. 6th 1993. He has also co-authored the book Managing 00 with Richard Bergeon. The book is available through John Wiley & Sons Publishers in New York.
He has appeared on the CBC show 'Venture', the Discovery Channel science series '@DISCOVERY.CA', as well as dozens of radio stations including National Public Radio in the USA, The CBC in Canada and the BBC in England. He has also appeared on the NBC morning news show, 'TODAY' and 'INSIDE EDITION." His Year 2000 Home page has been featured on CNN.
His expertise is internationally recognized. He was summoned before the US House of Representatives Science subcommittee hearings to testify on the Year 2000 crisis. He acts as a special advisor to the UK Year 2000 Taskforce and was recently appointed as special advisor to the Russian Task Force.
He is also a contributing Editor to CIO Canada a Management columnist for Information Canada and starting in January of 1997 he began writing the monthly Year 2000 column in Datamation as well as being a contributing Editor to that magazine.
He created The Year 2000 Information Center, (http://www.year2000.com) and manages the Year 2000 mailing list, another Internet resource allowing people to discuss the issues surrounding the problem. Currently there are more than 1,700 people participating in these discussions.
The offices of de Jager & Company Limited can be reached by phone at (905) 792-8706, by fax at (905) 792-9818, and via email at email@example.com.