Y2K: What a waste of time and money, Or was it?

By Guy Cramer

January 4, 2000

I have stayed silent on the issue of Y2K problem since I first heard about it in 1996-97. Not knowing enough about the problem, and not wishing to add to the fears and anxiety about the end of 1999, I shuddered when I heard some of my colleges predict the end of civilization. I often get asked or emailed with the question: When do you feel the end of the world is coming? My answer: We are one day closer then we were yesterday.

However, Y2K problems are not the catalyst for the End of civilization.

The global media on the other hand has treated the Y2K problem with a total lack of professionalism. They hyped the problem so much, that when the massive problems didn't occur, it became a story on "Why did the world spend billions on a problem that didn't even exist?" Let me tell you right now that the problem is still here and causing problems right where the experts expected. Although these stories on Y2K problems have been difficult to find, if one knows where to look, and compiles them together we get a different picture then the one that the Media is painting.

I don't think that anyone should panic about any of the following problems as most have already been resolved or are being resolved. The point I am trying to make is that the Governments and companies should be justified in the spending the billions to tackle the problem.

In a few cases when a company name has been used in the News, if possible I will keep the name of the company or product out of this paper to protect the company. Many companies that are experiencing problems will not disclose the problem, as it could devalue the company. Would you disclose that your company had a Y2K problem if the Media was declaring that there were no Y2K problem anywhere? 

So far I have collected 29 pages of Y2K problems since the rollover only 4 days ago, I won't bore you with all of details and will condense the problems even further for this paper.

Nuclear Reactor problems around the world = 15
1 in Spain, 1 in Ukraine, 5 in Japan and least 8 in the United States. Three other reactors in the US have reported problems since the rollover but these three problems don't seem to be related to Y2K at this time. All problems in the 15 Reactors have been or are being resolved. (If the United States experience 3  non Y2K problems just after the rollover that shut down these nuclear reactors, then maybe we should pay more attention to the regular safety with the nuclear plant situation.)

In mid-1998, a nuclear utility in Sweden decided to see what would happen if it switched the clocks in its reactor’s computers to read January 1, 2000. The response surprised utility officials, who had expected business as usual. The reactor’s computers couldn’t recognize the date (1/1/00) and thus turned the reactor off. If the utility had waited to run this test, New Year’s Eve would have been rather cold in Sweden. The Y2K computer bug caused the problem.  

A large US Department Store in Puerto Rico began experiencing many problems Jan. 2 with its own credit cards coming up as inactive due to Y2K.

Other reports in the US of popular credit cards coming up with receipts that read 01/01/100

A Scanner bought in August, 1999 stopped working after the rollover, After being reinstalled the fax registration sheet printed out, it was 01-01-100.

TVGUIDE Channel on cable has named the first decade. The name is the 100's. Yes that's correct. The TVGUIDE Channel on cable and the posted year is 19100. After all, what else would or could follow the 90's. The 100's of course.

This statement was made prior to the rollover on Y2K testing: The Coast Guard chief claimed that some failures encountered during testing were loss of steering control on ships, and failure of fire detection and control systems.

A popular personal financial program sold for 1999 was used to download the end of year stock prices after the rollover. All prices it seems were multiplied by 1000. The person who experienced this Y2K problem now has a portfolio that is now valued at many millions of dollars according to the program. Another person reports he used the same program and his mutual fund quotes jumped 1,300 %. A third person using the newest version of software designed for 2000 found the program seemed to see "99" as "2099", not "1999" as it normally does. He need to enter "1999" instead.

Power plant problems in the North of Germany. May or may not be related to Y2K

Beginning with 12/31/1999 no gas is being pumped to Istanbul, since a Y2K bug has been found in the system. The oil pumping system in Yumurtalik has been reset. It is running now as if the current date is 1995.

In Hawaii during Y2K rollover that there are some power outages in Hawaii, which may or may not be Y2K related, and cable TV feeds from the mainland have ceased, which probably is Y2K related. Since the celebration of the New Year takes place outside for most citizens, the lack of TV doesn't seem to be much of an inconvenience.

A calendar clock in a US utility plant jumped ahead 35 days at the turnover of Greenwich Mean Time, but was quickly fixed. No disruption to power. Earlier the US government reported slot machines were put out of commission at a Delaware race track.

The US government's offical time website, www.time.gov, became inaccessible just after the rollover.

A UPS DC-8 cargo plane was forced to land in Alliance, Neb., after an instrument screen blanked out and smoke began to enter the cockpit just after the rollover.

MSNBC reported that the stock exchange in Islamabad, Pakistan, has crashed after rollover, because its computers could not read the double-zero date.

MSNBC reported that at the website of the National Physics Laboratory, the online representation of the lab's atomic clock shows the time as past 2600 UTC on December 31 (an impossibility since the UTC time scale only goes to 2359). The clock should read 0342 UTC.

Power station fire under control - no threats to supplies
A dangerous fire at the Hazelwood Power Station in the Latrobe Valley, in eastern Victoria, is under control and should be extinguished by dusk.
The blaze began this morning 1/2/2000 in the number four power generator after a liquid coupling routine failed on the coal conveyor system.
However, power supplies to the State are not affected.
Glen Ravenhall from the Country Fire Authority, said about 90 firefighters faced dangerous conditions including fireballs…

One of the top Internet Search engines experience major Y2K problems as of 1/3/2000 in providing Sports Statistics.

Glitches hit government computers in Hong Kong and mainland China. Police testing the sobriety of drivers in Hong Kong had to enter birth dates on breath-testing machine because of an apparent Y2K malfunction. Courthouse computers in Italy mixed up prisoner dates by 100 years. A few ATM machines shut down.

Government computers in Hong Kong failed to display the correct date, but no records were lost and everything ran smoothly, officials said. Weather observations in part of mainland China had to be made by hand after the circuit board of a solar measuring device in the remote northwestern region of Ningxia failed to roll over to 2000

In Tokyo, about a dozen small brokerages reported Y2K-related glitches in a record-keeping system. They were quickly fixed. Ten small Hong Kong companies reported minor hardware or software problems possibly caused by Y2K. The heat went out in apartments for about 900 families in Pyongchon, South Korea.

A novelist in China who wrote stories about the millennium bug lost much of his work when the rollover to 2000 crashed his personal computer, destroying all his files. Luckily, Gu Qingsheng had already sent a completed manuscript of his latest novel to his publisher.

A hospital in western Norway reported that an X-ray machine had failed. News reports said cash registers at a handful of 7-Eleven convenience stores also failed there, and some ATM machines weren't working.

A customer returning a movie to Super Video rental in suburban Albany, N.Y., was presented with a $91,250 late fee after computers showed the tape was 100 years late. Employees at a different video rental store in Florida used pen and paper because computers failed.

Ticketing machines on some buses in Australia briefly jammed. Forecasting maps at the French weather service initially got the New Year Day date as ``01/01/19100.'' Eight hundred slot machines shut down at a Delaware horse track. Taxi meters broke down in a China province.

Three dialysis machines stopped functioning in Egypt hospitals, but the problem was quickly fixed.

A provincial court in South Korea issued automated summonses to 170 people to appear for trial on Jan. 4, 1900 instead of Jan. 4, 2000.

One Stock exchange discovered a few incorrect stock price values (i.e. a stock priced at $3,500 per share instead of $35), according to a spokeswoman for the New York-based trade association, which represents more than 700 brokerages, stock exchanges and other market participants.

Software errors caused problems for Internet banking customers in Europe

 Andy Kyte at the Gartner Group consulting firm said there was evidence of a software foul-up affecting some multinational corporations whose computers are synchronized using time signals. ``It appears that there are problems with software, which is causing quite a bit of a headache,'' he said.

Analysts said governments and companies may keep quiet about any problems

Glitches were reported in train-pass vending machines in Tokyo, in a program of France's Syracuse II military satellite system, and at the Islamabad Stock Exchange in Pakistan, where computers said the year was 1900. Exchange members were forced to manually record their transactions.

The North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) has reported to the Department of Energy that several electric utilities in North America have reported minor glitches with the synchronization feature of the clocks used in their energy management system computers. The synchronization feature of the clock is a non-critical part of the system.

A 911 problem in Michigan between Clare County and Isabella County in the 517-386 exchange was a normal, everyday, course of business problem with extremely minimal customer impact.

The Palatka-Putnam, Florida reporting station, conveyed that the county's 911 service was experiencing intermittent problems with the name and number link.

Charlotte, North Carolina: 911 systems in broke down Wednesday 12/29/99 during latest round of Y2K testing. 

Low-level Windshear Alert (LLWAS) systems failed at Tampa, Denver, Atlanta, Orlando, Chicago O'Hare, and St. Louis during the rollover. The systems displayed an error message. Air Transportation system specialists at each site rebooted LLWAS computers to clear the error, and the last system was in normal operation in just over two hours. Impact on operations was minimal.

Low-level Windshear Alert systems at Toledo, Ohio; Lansing, Michigan; Charleston, W.Va.; and Moline, Ill., displayed an erroneous date on a receiver that takes in a highly-precise time signal. FAA will determine what action to take to correct the incorrect date readouts. The LLWAS installations at these sites are of a different type than those at the airports in the first instance.

Power Conditioning System Data terminal equipment at Rochester, NY; Greensboro, NC; Memphis, TN; and Birmingham, AL, displayed the date "1900" on rollover

The clocks for the Automated Radar Terminal System (ARTS) IIE at Peoria, IL. stopped right before the rollover.

The Direct Access Radar Channel monitor at Albuquerque, N.M. failed immediately after the rollover.

Kavouras Graphic Weather Display Systems at flight service stations in 16 locations around the country failed about ten minutes after the rollover. Data supplied to automated flight service stations was not updating properly. Specialists discovered the system sent data bearing the date "2010," resulting in rejection of National Weather Service data and incorrect updates of weather data in the system

An Automatic Backup to the central computer complex at the Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center failed to activate after the date change.

ARINC Oceanic Display and Planning System printers at Oakland, CA and Islip, NY, failed the transition from 1999 to 2000. These are not FAA printers but are a redundant system used in the relay of data from ARINC communications centers to air traffic controllers handling oceanic traffic.

Weather Message Switching Center Replacement, Atlanta, GA, stopped recognizing and processing certain kinds of Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS) because of a software problem involving a failure to recognize years ending in "0" in the NOTAM time and date code.

A minor problem was discovered at Amtrak's Philadelphia Control Center. The system would not retain train symbols as the train progressed on the system.

The San Francisco Regional office reported that Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) experienced a failure of two systems used for time clocks in their facility.

ATF reports that a security system in a field office is not functioning. This system had recently been installed as a compliant solution after an IV&V audit revealed the previous system was not compliant.

Guam determined its systems for processing food stamp benefits would not be Y2K-ready by 1/1/00. Problems also reported with food stamps in Florida.

Financial Management Service (FMS) Lenexa, KS fire alarm system was activated at approximately midnight.

Food and Drug Administration in KS (leased facility) lock failed - locked in the open position. Contingency plan is in effect.

Boston, MA. The JFK Federal Building alarm systems malfunctioned

Omaha, NE. Security access system froze in an open position due to malfunction in clock system

The Naval Observatory Web page contained an error that caused the date to read "19100" for a brief period following the rollover.

FEMA experienced a Y2K problem involving the Automated Deployment Database System (ADDS) for FEMA disaster employees. This is a database of reservist and regular staff that FEMA uses to deploy personnel when a disaster has been declared. The system apparently went down right after the rollover. A temporary workaround has been developed. As of January 3, 2000, the code had been repaired, and testing of the system is underway. FEMA will re-deploy the ADDS system this week.           (Not a good system to go down for Y2K, specifically if there was a nuclear accident)

As of Noon 1/3/2000: Two Federal Housing Administration systems have incorrect dates appearing. Both are minor issues because the correct dates can be interpreted by the users. A third system, Single Family Insurance System experienced a Y2K error that prevented users from terminating FHA mortgages. The system has been repaired, re-tested and re-released to production.

18 states had tested their systems this weekend and had reported a wide range of minor Y2K problems had been discovered.Minor glitches covered a wide range of issues. Several included things like licensing processes, motor vehicle division problems either in issuing renewal licenses or conducting driver's license testing. There were cosmetic date problems, printing out the wrong dates for functions.

In one state, three non-mission critical systems not vital to any state operations but related to correspondence and message tracking were known to be non-Y2K compliant last fall and were replaced with alternate systems. The CIO left those systems on in operation. All three of the systems failed following the Y2K rollover and could not be used. But nonetheless I would stress that they were non-mission critical and the state had planned to replace them, which they did before the rollover. But they in fact had left them running to see what would happen and what happened was that they became unusable.

On Saturday, January 1, Godiva Chocolates was experiencing business as usual. Yesterday, however, the first day of the fiscal week for Godiva, they discovered that everything including cash registers, was down in their New York City, NY store. They located the problem at 9 AM, downloaded a patch by noon and were back up and operational. Due to Godiva's unique hardware/software configuration, the company believes that each individual store will need to perform the correction patch for business operations today.

JAPAN FINANCIAL MARKETS - A small number of computer glitches were encountered by 12 member brokerages in back-office transactions but these have been reportedly resolved. Trading will resume 1/4/2000 in Japan.

There is a report about power outages in Pakistan. Discussions within Pakistan as to whether they have been Y2K-related, there were six-hour outages and eight-hour outages both of which were overcome and restored outside of Islamabad.

Driver's licenses could not be issued in nearly half of New Mexico's motor vehicle offices. A vital payroll computer died at an Alabama company. A small part of a Danish bank's payment system was erased.

BERLIN, Jan. 2 -- A German salesman becomes a millionaire on paper when a malfunctioning bank computer inflated his bank account to more than 12 million marks ($6.2 million).

Engineers are also trying to fix a problem with the free e-mail service Hotmail. If users have e-mail in their inbox dated prior to October 1999, it appears to have been sent in 2099.

The Pentagon reports one Y2K glitch, which briefly knocks offline an unspecified military intelligence system. It was back online with a temporary patch and had no effect on military operations, an official says.

The Federal Aviation Administration reports momentary problems with printers in transoceanic air traffic control centers in New York, Oakland, Calif., and Anchorage, Alaska. The agency says there was no effect on flights.

Surveys showed that 60-80% of companies said that they had already experienced a Y2K glitch before the rollover. If that many companies had already had them and none of us knew about it, if that many companies continue to have it we still wouldn't know about.

``This was worth it,'' Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said on CBS' ``Face the Nation'' on Sunday. ``In this case the fizzle was good. The fact the fire department didn't have to put out any fires this weekend doesn't mean we shouldn't have a fire department.''

One last personal note on the non-existent Y2K problem.

While preparing a separate web site this morning, Tuesday Jan 4, 2000. I was using Excel 2000 to create a graph needed for the web site. The graph required dates for one axis. In this case the dates are January 1st - 7th, 2000. When I set up this part of the graph all the dates showed up as 1900 and not 2000. Thinking that I might be able to override this problem I manually typed in 2000 into the field, but they reverted back to 1900. The problem was not immediately apparent as I first decided to use a more common date format of 1/1/00, which does work, but only for aesthetics. The computer program did not recognize 00 as 2000 but as 1900. Thinking this might just be a small problem with the chart portion of the Excel program I went to a spreadsheet in Excel and discovered that 00 = 1900 and not 2000. The spreadsheet problem could be resolved but only by manually changing every occurrence of 00 to 1900 and then to 2000.

I contacted Microsoft support tonight about this problem and they said that under certain circumstances the problem will occur, because Excel allows dates from 1900-9999. To have Excel produce this error, you must enter 1 or 2 digits into a field and then format the field as a date or visa-versa. If you then ask the field to provide 4 digits for the year, up comes 1900 and not 2000. The problem I had with this was that to speed things up, this is how I would format many dates in the past and then just fill the rest in with an simple equation. When I did it this time, all the dates came up as year 1900. To get around this problem, according to Microsoft support, you must enter month and day into the field such as 01/01. Then if you fill in the other fields, they all come up as year 2000. The support person at Microsoft also showed me how to get the Year 2000 to appear in the chart, however that meant going through the chart setup again because the chart I first setup wouldn't let go of the 1900 issue even when we tried to pull proper data 01/01/2000 in. Special thanks to the Microsoft support people.

There is one other area in this Excel Y2K problem that is interesting. Feb. 29, 2000 exists, Feb 29, 1900 does not, but Excel thinks that it does exist, which means that the date of Feb 29, 2000 even if you put your dates the way I did, it will still work through the 29th.

Excel is one of the most common spreadsheets in the world. Used for order entry, inventory, accounting… You name it. I sure hope nobody else made the simple mistake I made.

You can see on the site I posted this morning that the seven days of January in the chart do not have any year beside them, I chose to use Month/Day without the Year feeling that it was not critical to the site at this particular time. See:  www.superforce.com

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