Friday, December 17, 1999

George Mindling Column 12-17-1999

Timing is everything


Is 2000 really Y2K? Computers don't count in the decimal system people use. 2K, in the computer language of binary, means 2048. Coining the phrase "Y2K" is a perfect example of how the Year 2000 bug came about in the first place.

Y2K is a quick, glib and not necessarily accurate way of describing the "millennium" or the Year 2000 bug. Go take a look at all the corporate Web sites on the Internet. Only a few refer to the potential problem as Y2K; most use the standard "Year 2000 problem" name.

The problem, as everyone this side of Mars knows, is that your old programs and some older computers won't know which century it is after Dec. 31. It's a mistake shared by some of our politicians.

If you haven't received the "free Y2K checker" from an online buddy by now, you may have been spared one of the few feeble attempts at humor about the impending date change. Watching your PC computer screen go through what appears to be a thorough check of your system, then start changing every letter "Y" it finds to the letter "K", is a heart stopper. January becomes Januark; February changes to Februark, and so on. Of course it doesn't really corrupt your data, it only displays the joke on your screen. At first, I didn't laugh either.

The dilemma is real, of course, and I'll finally have to upgrade my trusty and well-worn version of Quicken to a "Y2K compliant" version. There are other programs that will need to be replaced as they can't be upgraded to new versions.

Several of the spreadsheet programs and even my word processor won't know what the date is if I have to compute a moon landing or a solution to world famine.

There is no alternative but to replace them. The data can be exported from the old programs and imported into the new ones. Most programs update existing databases automatically. My old PCs will have to be manually reset after the Dec. 31, 1999 rollover, but that will take about 30 seconds each. I already have the default short date (in Windows 95 & 98) set to the four-digit size field, rather than the two-digit size that got us all into this mess.

All my business records are backed up on tape and on diskette. Maybe I'll break down and buy a CD/RW, a CD unit that allows me to save single copies of massive data quickly. I have the same standard plan for the Year 2000 problem as I do for any unseen occurrence that might knock out my computers. So I have taken all the necessary safeguards but perhaps not all the ones available, though. We're not moving to an underground bunker, nor are we taking everything we own to the mountains (though we would for a Category 5 hurricane).

And I'm not going to stand here New Year's Night with the power on watching PC screens. I just might spill something on these marvelous, time-saving devices. Oh yes, I bought a new calendar, too.


George Mindling © 1999

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