LOS ANGELES TIMES: It's For Real - "Nearly '00' Problems Reported by PC Users"

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[This is dedicated to the overwrought 'For Real', whose feeling kinda stressed out by the weight of his Polly responsibilities right now :)This should cheer you up, guy...at least until the market goes over the edge or all of those software 'glitches' compound, whichever comes first. Until then, just pop some Prozac :)]

Tuesday, January 4, 2000

Nearly '00' Problems Reported by PC Users

Millennium: Computer companies field fewer than normal tech support calls. Small business appears unscathed.

By GREG MILLER, Times Staff Writer

Personal computer and software companies reported scant Y2K-related problems Monday, with many companies saying that calls to their tech support centers have actually been below normal since New Year's Day.

Even small businesses, which many experts considered the Achilles heel of Y2K preparation in the United States, appeared unscathed as they returned Monday for the first day of business in the new year.

"It was really yawn 2K," said John Spelich, a spokesman for Gateway Computer Corp. Spelich said Gateway's call center in South Dakota had received only a handful of Y2K-related calls over the weekend, and zero on Monday.

The results, while still early, seemed to indicate that small businesses and home computer users cleared the Y2K hurdle as successfully as the major corporations and government agencies across the country that spent billions of dollars in recent years on Y2K repairs.

The Y2K bug stems from programmers' early use of two digits to designate a year, creating the possibility that some computers would malfunction when reading "00" as a year beyond, or greater than, "99."

The glitch does affect some personal computers, particularly those manufactured before 1996, as well as some software. But most of the problems were minor, and many companies have written "patches," or software upgrades, available free over the Internet.

Intuit Inc., for instance, the maker of Quicken and other financial software, informed its users last year that they might encounter problems when performing online banking. The company steered consumers to an upgrade on the company's Web site.

Holly Anderson, a spokeswoman for the company, said call volumes have been average for this time of year, when many consumers are installing new financial software. "We've gotten a couple [Y2K-related] inquiries," she said. "But a lot of calls have just been from people asking for help installing software they got for Christmas."

Other companies, including Microsoft Corp., Dell Computer Corp. and IBM reported a similar dearth of Y2K-related queries.

Microsoft braced for an avalanche of calls, bringing in 6,000 staffers worldwide to solve consumers' Y2K problems. But the software giant said its technical services center fielded just 80 calls over the weekend, and only eight of those were Y2K-related.

Some Y2K experts feared that America's small businesses would be particularly vulnerable to the problem because they depend heavily on customized software designed by small-scale vendors. But small business organizations reported no widespread problems among members.

"So far, so good," said Scott Hauge, chairman of the California Small Business Assn. and owner of a San Francisco insurance agency. "Undoubtedly there are business owners who did nothing who are going to see some glitches. . . . Still, I'm beginning to wonder if I wasted $15,000."

Hauge was being facetious, of course. Liability concerns forced the insurance agent to take Y2K precautions to make sure his systems were working and that his clients knew the risks associated with the millennium bug. Still, he figures the lion's share of the $15,000 he spent on computer upgrades had little to do with Y2K. The looming 2000 changeover simply motivated him to make needed upgrades in his accounting system and other back-office functions along with Y2K adjustments.

"I figured I might as well do it all at once," Hauge said.

Jack Stewart, president of the California Manufacturers Assn., is convinced that this sort of investment, replicated in businesses throughout the United States, will lead to further productivity gains.

"If no corrective actions had been taken we would have seen some pretty serious shutdowns," Stewart said.

"Now our companies are more up-to-date and technologically advanced than they would have been."

The only Y2K casualty Stewart could report on the first business day of 2000 was his own 401(k) returns. Fearing Y2K panic near year-end, Stewart said, he moved all his retirement savings out of equities in late November, only to miss out on the December rally that sent stocks soaring to new highs.

"That's my Y2K problem--trying to anticipate the market," he said with a laugh.

Times staff writers Marla Dickerson and Stanley Holmes contributed to this report. [ENDS] Search the archives of the Los Angeles Times

-- John Whitley (jwhitley@inforamp.net), January 05, 2000

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