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Computer failure has courts keeping records the old way

02/16/2000 By DAVID HOLDEN Times Staff Writer

Court clerks at the Madison County Courthouse have had a troublesome reminder over the past two days of the old system of keeping records by hand.

Computers have failed in the district and circuit courts.

''The 2 in Y2K probably should have meant the second month of the year,'' a harried clerk said Tuesday morning. ''The computers were up, then down, then gone.''

A mechanical failure, not the Y2K bug, caused the problems, said Court Administrator Gary O. Stephens. The court's computer system failed intermittently throughout the day, then finally crashed Monday afternoon.

A power supply about the size of a Huntsville telephone book was to blame, he said.

The court is routinely without its computers for short periods:

The court computer system is disabled for routine maintenance. The computers were down last Wednesday, for example, when technicians installed a 64-bit controller to replace two 32-bit controllers. The work promised to make the system more efficient and much faster, Stephens said.

At times the system is down because the parent system, the State Judicial Information System located in Montgomery, is making adjustments.

When computers are down, clerks use the back-up books to record the information, said Circuit Clerk Billy Harbin. ''They save the paperwork and enter the information into the computers when they come back up,'' he said.

But two days of down time is a long time, and the paperwork is piling up.

A replacement part arrived from a supplier in Florence Tuesday afternoon, Stephens said. The system was up and running by 6:30 p.m., but not until after the close of the court.

''We have certainly learned how much we depend on technology,'' said Deputy Circuit Clerk Jane Smith.

) 2000 The Huntsville Times. Used with permission.

-- Uncle Bob (, February 17, 2000

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