The Millennium Bug: What It Means to You


The Year 2000 crisis—the Millennium Bug, Y2K, the Millennium Bomb—can mean big problems for the University and technology in general. At 12:01 a.m., January1, 2000, many, or some say most, computer and electronic systems could malfunction or cease to work at all. The potential for headaches or disaster is huge.

The millennium bug could affect desktop and main frame computers, hospital health care systems, air traffic control, elevators, traffic signal lights, railroad crossings, banking, watches, clocks, televisions, VCRs, cars, boats, alarm systems, thermostats, and digital telephones.

Problems could occur in any application where data sorting or other calculation is performed using a date indicated in two digits, such as 98 instead of 1998. When the year 2000 rolls around, many systems will mistake it for 1900. Some experts estimate the cost of reprogramming personal computers to rid them of this flaw at hundreds of billions of dollars. Others say that some systems may get through January 1, 2000, with no problems, but may run into major problems on February 29 because 2000 is also a leap year.

"The University is taking the Year 2000 issue very seriously and is preparing itself to avoid many problems," said Frederick Ryan, vice provost for Information Resources. "Significant work has already been performed at CSU, Chico related to our central computing systems, including a mainframe system upgrade to a Year 2000 compliant-version."

The Enterprise System Committee's Year 2000 Team is working with consultants and personnel at other campuses to investigate Year 2000-compliance issues. The Y2K Team continues to take inventory of supported software applications, operating systems, hardware, and RAM of every computer on campus to ascertain their compliance status. At Chico State an estimated twenty to fifty thousand separate applications and pieces of equipment need to be inventoried.

Following the inventory, all systems will be tested. Non-compliant systems will be repaired, replaced, or eliminated. Systems and machines will be certified that they can accurately handle the four-digit date convention of 20xx as well as the leap year calculations. Each department must cover the cost of replacing or resolving Year 2000 problems. Until the inventory and testing is complete, an estimate of the cost is hard to predict, but at a minimum it will be several hundred thousand dollars campuswide.

University faculty and staff are asked to help by always using four-digit years for any information that will be used in data bases or for calculations. Any purchase of new equipment that relies on dates should include a manufacturer's certification of Year 2000 compliancy. Procurement Services is already including Y2K compliancy language in its contracts. Linda Post, campus Y2K project manager, asks that those who use discipline-specific equipment in labs or classrooms contact her to provide inventory information and discuss their compliance (lpost@csuchico.edu).

Information Resources will continue to share information with the campus up to and through the year 2000. Current information on Chico State's progress with Year 2000 issues and links to other pages are available at http:/www.csuchico.edu/inf/Y2000.html.


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