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[Fair Use: For Education and Research Purpose Only] February 24, 2000
Y2K Center on Alert for Leap Year Problems
By DAVID STOUT
WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 -- Having adapted more or less serenely to the year 2000, the world's computers face another potential hurdle on Tuesday, when February has an extra day.
How Big a Threat Is the Y2K Glitch?
Accordingly, the command center of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion will be on the alert Monday through Wednesday, the chairman, John A. Koskinen, said today at a briefing that included lessons in humility and some valuable tidbits for computer programmers of the future.
February's extra day presents "a real issue that we feel obligated to keep track of," Mr. Koskinen said, emphasizing that he and the computer experts he consults with have concluded that the risks of serious disruption are "very minimal."
If there are problems, he said, they could involve payrolls, or billing cycles, or interest payments -- in other words, transactions in which the number of days is central. Since the 29th and the days immediately thereafter are business days, the world should know rather soon if things are awry, he said.
The worries over the year 2000 had to do with the standard, if shortsighted, computer-programming practice of using two digits to signify a year. Would computers read the two zeroes at the end of 2000 as the year 1900? Generally, they did not.
In contrast, the anxiety over Feb. 29 arises from errors in computer programming, both in government and business, the chairman said. But wait. How can this leap year thing have crept up? After all, Feb. 29 comes around every four years, doesn't it? Well, yes and no.
"Most people have wandered through life thinking a leap year is one divided by four," Mr. Koskinen said. "Most people -- including me -- did not fully understand."
A lot of people know that leap years are meant to account for the fact that the Earth's journey around the sun takes 365 1/4 days. Throw in an extra day every four years and the calendar ought to work. O.K. so far.
But the monks and astronomers who fretted over such things many centuries ago calculated that the Earth's trip actually takes a few minutes under 365 1/4 days. So, to keep the calendar honest, the church decreed late in the 16th century that years ending in "00" would not be leap years, unless they were divisible by 400. Thus, 1600 was a leap year, but 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not. Some computer people assumed that 2000 was not a leap year and programmed accordingly -- and wrongly.
In preparing for Jan. 1, 2000, Mr. Koskinen's agency gradually became aware that some computer people knew of the exception for "00" years but did not know of the rule for years divisible by 400. These computer people assumed that 2000 was not a leap year and programmed accordingly -- and wrongly.
Other computer handlers, ignorant of the "00" exception, just assumed all along that 2000 was a leap year and adjusted their software to accommodate it.
Mr. Koskinen saw humor in the fact that some programmers were wrong because they knew more about leap years than a lot of other people, while other programmers "were right for the wrong reason."
The command center will not operate around the clock, as it did with the approach of the new year, but from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Monday through Wednesday. Exuding confidence, Mr. Koskinen predicted that any problems that arise on Tuesday, either in commerce or government, can be fixed quickly.
If Feb. 29 comes and goes without catastrophe, Mr. Koskinen's agency will shut down late in March. He said he fully expects to close up shop. After all, he pointed out, "There are no records of anyone having a major problem in 1600."
-- Dee (T1Colt556@aol.com), February 25, 2000
Another artice:IOL NEWS:
Leap day poses mini Y2K threat Leap day poses mini Y2K threat
-- Dee (T1Colt556@aol.com), February 25, 2000.
At my husbands office there will be no Feb. 29th. Every job is due on the 28th to fool the computer. I hope they still plan on paying him for the 29th :) Although eight hours of overtime on the 28th would be cool.
-- Just Curious (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 25, 2000.
This is proof that they lucked out on Jan 1st.
"If Feb. 29 comes and goes without catastrophe, Mr. Koskinen's agency will shut down late in March. He said he fully expects to close up shop. After all, he pointed out, "There are no records of anyone having a major problem in 1600.""
-- ,-, (email@example.com), February 25, 2000.
Only a few days away...will be interesting to see if anything crops up.
-- Dee (T1Colt556@aol.com), February 25, 2000.