AP: "Biggest test of Y2K readiness to unfold as people get back to work"

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Biggest test of Y2K readiness to unfold as people get back to work

By Ted Bridis, Associated Press, 1/2/2000 16:15

WASHINGTON (AP) Americans looked overseas Sunday for hints of Y2K trouble in the world's earliest time zones, where employees already began returning to offices for the workweek and turning on computers and other systems for the first time in 2000.

The State Department said there were no problems by early afternoon in New Zealand, among the first countries worldwide to experience Monday morning.

President Clinton's top Y2K adviser, John Koskinen, called Monday ''an important and significant day'' for ensuring some of the most important business computers will work.

''We expect there will continue to be small glitches,'' he said Sunday.

But remarkably absent any serious problems, companies and governments around the world also began disbanding Y2K operations and sending workers home.

Top experts, admittedly surprised at computers' seamless transition to 2000, cautioned nevertheless that countries and organizations that got a late start on repairs even here in the United States aren't out of the woods yet.

''Some of the procrastinators haven't been heard from,'' Koskinen said. ''If countries ... started later and had some resource constraints, how are they going to be doing? I think it will be another few days before we can see definitively.''

The biggest uncertainty in the United States focused on hundreds of thousands of small businesses that planned to reopen Monday yet took no precautions to vaccinate their computers against the Y2K bug.

A smattering of glitches blamed on Y2K came to light. Employees at a video rental store in Florida used pen and paper because computers failed. In South Korea, about 900 families in apartments in Pyongchon, just south of Seoul, went without heat for several hours Saturday when a central heating system malfunctioned.

In the nearby city of Ansan, a hospital said Sunday that its computer recorded a newborn's birthday as Jan. 1, 1900.

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 failed in Norway, and some ATM machines there weren't working.

''None of these were serious problems,'' said Kim With of Norway's National Civil Preparedness Board.

Gambia, the smallest country on the African continent, earlier warned that it anticipated failures in its treasury and customs computers because of Y2K bugs. But officials Sunday said no disruptions are expected, consistent with reports from the State Department.

Major U.S. financial exchanges prepared to open Monday, among the first worldwide since many countries have declared it a national holiday.

''We haven't heard anything about problems at financial markets either in the United States or overseas,'' said Margaret Draper, spokeswoman for the Securities Industry Association.

Stock markets in Kuwait and Egypt were among the first to open in 2000, and reported no signs of Y2K computer problems Sunday. Italy's stock market ran a test Sunday without any problems a day before it opens.

''This has played out so well,'' said Kathy Searle, spokeswoman for Fleet Boston Corp., a large U.S. bank and financial services company. ''It continues to be business as usual.''

Top federal officials even responded to criticism that too much money an estimated $100 billion in the United States alone and attention was paid to the Y2K problem. ''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.''

With so few reports of trouble, Y2K centers scaled back staffs. Officials at the federal government's $50 million command center considered ending 24-hour operations as early as Tuesday; they had planned to work round-the-clock through Friday.

Pitney Bowes, a Stamford, Conn., manufacturer of business machines, sent home some employees who had braced for calls from concerned customers that never materialized.

Singapore Airlines closed its Y2K command center Sunday, and Israel shuttered its Y2K operations. The International Civil Aviation Organization, the U.N. agency responsible for air safety, sent some workers home, as did the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The Canadian government canceled all its Y2K briefings for the coming days. Britain's Government Millennium Center expected to have a staff of 15 by Monday, down from 40 people on Friday night.

''There is no reason to make them sit there doing nothing,'' said Bradley Dugger, head of Tennessee's computer systems who sent some staff home.

The first baby born in 2000 on U.S. territory was delivered in Guam. The infant, weighing 7 pounds, 7 ounces, was named Pete John G. Urdanetta San Nicholas.

''That will look actually fairly interesting on a T-shirt,'' Koskinen said.

Even Russia, where many Y2K experts had predicted serious problems with electricity and natural gas, fared surprisingly well. Russians joked about it.

Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov said on Russian television early in the morning of Jan. 1 that he was aware of only one Y2K failure, which hit while he was at his country house: ''I was shoveling snow, and the shovel broke,'' Adamov said. ''I am sure it was the Y2K bug.''


-- John Whitley (jwhitley@inforamp.net), January 03, 2000


Hi gang,

I'll probably get flamed by someone for writing this (although those who know me, KNOW that--as a journalist--I don't even deserve a match-head. LOL!), but here is the deal on this story, as I see it.

Ted Bridis at AP has been covering this story for some time. He has--quite possibly--been stuck in that "command center" for the past couple of days.

Now--having done a fair number of "media stakeouts"--I can relate that what routinely happens is that everyone is assembled and the back-up troops are in place to cover the "big bang."

Journalists were working overtime around the world to catch the fireworks on tape, etc. Other journalists were stationed to report on potential problems. At a moment's notice all of the journalists on assignment would have been prepared to switchover from celebration to tragedy. Bet on it. It didn't happen.

Now, if I were Ted Bridis at this late hour on this particular day, having covered this "beat" for as long as he has done so, I would feel compelled to file a story that reached beyond the "feel goods" of the past 48 hours or so. Don't get me wrong: I LOVED the "feel good" stories.

However, these guys and gals (along with thousands in other professions around the globe) are now exhausted.

So--what you will see from the media--from here on out, will be a veteran "core" of journalists who survived the "Y2k stake-outs" by drinking diet coke and eating Cheetos, who--hopefully now understand enough about this whole thing to recognize a MAJOR Y2k problem if and when one happens.

My prediction is that--unless there is a MAJOR blowup over the next week or so--we will not see any more BIG stories about Y2k from here on out.

Always remember gang, if a dog bites a man, that isn't news. If a man bites a DOG, that's BIG news.

I suspect that from here on out we will see news organizations refocus ing on the upcoming presidential election in the United States, the political transition in Russia, and of course--as always--what is happening with the stock market in America.

Just my predictions, but I used to run an assignment desk. I think Y2k has been an amazing story, but I understand how the media works.

Blessings as always.


-- FM (vidprof@aol.com), January 03, 2000.

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