December 29, 1999, Y2K bug behind credit card
debacle: London - Associated Press
LONDON (AP) A Y2K-triggered failure in credit card swipe machines caused frustrating delays for thousands of retailers and customers trying to ring up purchases across Britain on Wednesday. The machines, manufactured by Racal Electronics and supplied by HSBC, one of Britains largest four banks, improperly rejected credit cards because of a failure to recognize the year 2000, a bank spokeswoman said.
Merchants who tried to swipe Mastercard and Visa cards through some 20,000 machines beginning on Tuesday found they were improperly rejected, said HSBC spokeswoman Nicolette Dawson.
Lines grew as retailers were forced to telephone for further authorization.
In both cases, systems can fail or corrupt data. Dawson said HSBC failure occurred because some of the banks new swipe card terminals are programmed to look ahead four working days in processing transactions.
"The problem was with the terminals not the cards," she said. "Theres
no way any customers would be inconvenienced." She said the problem was expected to
disappear by Jan. 1.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) As many as 500 people got notices telling them to show up for jury duty in 1900 an error caused by the so-called Y2K bug in city court computers.
"YES, AFTER all the work that was done to avoid this, it happened," city Jury Commissioner Michael J. McAllister told the Philadelphia Daily News. Well, it was only one run of mailings, and weve taken care of it. It shouldnt happen again.
About 400 to 500 people got the erroneous mailings, he said. McAllister said the problem only involved those who had been granted postponements of their jury duty; the notices were for a second call.
But Charles McLaughlin of the citys Port Richmond section, who got his summons Friday, said he had never asked for a postponement. I told my wife, Ive got jury duty, but I cant go. Ive already missed it. Then I told her it was for the year 1900, he said. Brian Anderson, who is in charge of the citys computer systems, could not be reached for comment by the Daily News. Computer experts around the world have been warning for months about the Y2K bug, a technological glitch that can cause computer systems to mistake the year 2000 for 1900.
JULY 30, 1999 Web posted at: 12:06 PM EDT (1606 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Don't expect the Year 2000 technology problem to disappear after Jan. 1. President Clinton's top Y2K expert said failures could extend well beyond New Year's Day.
Although John Koskinen predicts there will be a national "sigh of relief" in the early hours of Jan. 1, he also anticipates scattered electronic failures over the first days, weeks and even months of the new year.
Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press that some failures may not become obvious until the end of January, the first time after the date rollover that consumers review their monthly bank statements, credit-card bills and other financial paperwork.
"It won't evaporate until after that," Koskinen said. "Clearly, this is more than a January 1 problem." But he also slightly hedged his predictions: "None of us are really going to know until after January 1."
Unless repaired, some computers originally programmed to recognize only the last two digits of a year will not work properly beginning in 2000, when those machines will assume it is 1900.
Some computer systems may shut down quickly with obvious failures, and others may gradually experience subtle problems or degraded performance that may take weeks to notice.
"The more difficult problem will be where the system looks like it's doing it correctly but it's doing it all wrong," Koskinen said.
Some failures won't be recognized until the work week starts Monday, Jan. 3, as employees return to their offices and turn on their computers for the first time.
Repaired computers also will need to recognize 2000 as a leap year, even though most years ending in "00" don't need to adjust for Feb. 29, he said.
A new $40 million Information Coordination Center being organized down the street from the White House will operate until March, sharing information about failures with states, federal agencies, corporations and foreign governments.
Koskinen urged people to prepare for possible trouble as they might for a winter storm or a hurricane: Buy flashlights and batteries, keep enough cash, food and water for several days and make copies of financial and medical records.
But he also cautioned against stockpiling supplies, which could lead to local shortages, or draining bank accounts, which could strain the nation's financial system.
"If we get a couple hundred million Americans doing anything differently, we're going to create economic problems," he said.
An AP poll this month found most Americans don't expect major problems, but nearly a third plan to stock up on food, water and other supplies. About one-quarter of Americans planned to withdraw cash in case of trouble.
Koskinen predicted the most widespread problems will occur in developing nations that were slow to begin repair work. He named certain regions that recently suffered financial problems, including Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and Russia. But he acknowledged that parts of Africa, Central America, South America and the Caribbean also were likely to suffer.
"Clearly, some of the developing countries of the world are going to have some difficulties," he said, adding that only 25 to 30 of the world's nations were well prepared. "Many more countries are going to have problems than not."
The State Department will begin issuing travel advisories in September for U.S. citizens about which countries to avoid.
Koskinen also disclosed that the government will consider evacuating American citizens from countries with widespread failures. He said each U.S. ambassador will make that decision.
SINGAPORE (AP) Singapore's first reported computer failure caused by the millennium bug struck an unlikely target taxi meters a full year before 2000, a newspaper reported.
Computerized meters on about 300 taxis went dead at noon on Jan. 1 for about two hours, The Sunday Times said Sunday.
The new meters were supposed to be "year 2000 compliant,'' the report said.
The millennium bug is expected to strike computers and software that only recognize the last two digits of a year. Although most of its disruptions are forecast for the first day of 2000, the glitch is also predicted to affect systems during 1999.
The supplier of the meters was investigating the incident.
Taxi meters in Sweden also acted up on Jan. 1, but passengers there hardly complained. The meters continued to work but gave riders unexpectedly low fares.
Stockholm's largest taxi service recently changed the way it calculates fares. But when 1998 became 1999, some of its computers didn't adjust properly and passengers were charged normal rates, instead of the higher holiday and late-hour fares.
"The problem has been patched and now we'll get to the root of the problem,'' Taxi Stockholm managing director Anders Malmqvist said in a telephone interview Saturday.
Customers of Statoil, Norway's state oil company which operates about 600 gas stations in Sweden, couldn't use their credit cards Friday because pumps were programmed to accept them only through Dec. 1998.
"There was nothing wrong in the data technology, but rather it was we who programmed badly,'' Statoil spokesman Henrik Siden told the regional newspaper Oestgoeta Correspondenten.
The day before, police at Stockholm's Arlanda international airport were temporarily unable to issue provisional travel documents to four travelers who had misplaced their passports, the Swedish news agency TT reported.
When they attempted to input the date, some computers would not accept "99'' and transmitted in response: "end of run'' or "end of file.''
The year 2000 is expected to bring more computer problems because many of the machines recognize each year by its last two digits rather than by all four.
Trouble could begin when computers try to add or subtract dates using that two-digit format after the arrival of the year 2000, or 00. The larger, older mainframe computers still used by government and big corporations for many vital functions are particularly vulnerable.
Y2K Is Millennium Challenge NEW YORK (AP) With only a year to go until 2000, organizations that say their computers are ready to face the Millennium Bug now face the task of checking the fixes.
That means checking millions of lines of computer code, and then running what industry insiders call IVV independent verification and validation. And that's after companies and organizations have already spent a fortune to inoculate their computers.
But since the alternative is likely worse, a whole "fix and test'' industry has sprouted up, manned by an army of programmers who independently check the original programmers' debugging and run computer simulations pretending it's Jan. 1, 2000.
One such verifier is Sapiens International Corp., an Israeli company specializing in Year 2000 problems. Sapiens' verification business started picking up about six months ago and has really taken off in the last two or three months, said Monica Wooden, senior vice president for Sapiens America.
Companies like Sapiens have spent the past two years flushing out Y2K bugs for organizations ranging from Holiday Inn, IBM and Siemens Energy & Automation Inc., to the state of Arkansas and the Virginia Farm Bureau.
Founded in 1990, Sapiens is considered one of the leaders in the fix and test industry. It employs about 650 people and has $60 million to $70 million in yearly sales. It has scanned more than 100 million lines of code in more than 100,000 programs.
The problem known as the millennium bug, or the Year 2000 or just Y2K, results when computers use two digits to denote the year such as "98'' for 1998 and read "00'' as 1900 instead of 2000. That causes computers to think they have moved back a century and give faulty readings, corrupt the data or shut down completely.
Worst-case scenarios for Jan. 1, 2000, speak of chaos in the financial markets, electricity shutdowns, disrupted airline schedules and missed paychecks. More moderate forecasts suggest spotty power outages, delayed flights and ATMs refusing to dispense cash for a few days.
To see if it's ready for 2000, a company can send a sample of about 10,000 lines of computer code to the verification firm, which uses specialized software programs and a programmers to scan for erroneous date calculations.
They also run simulations, moving the computers' internal clocks forward to the last minutes of 1999 to see what happens.
Once a company's computer code is checked and converted, it should expect to spend another 25 percent more to have a third party verify that the corrected code works, said Shai Sole, Sapiens' chief technical officer. But even then, nothing is perfect.
"There will obviously be bugs,'' Wooden said. "The key is to reduce the amount. There will be bugs at midnight (when 2000 arrives) and there will be bugs afterward. You just have to keep chipping away.''
No one knows how many U.S. companies have completed the first phase of their Y2K fix because there's no one source of hard data for that kind of information.
While Wooden wouldn't mention specific clients nondisclosure agreements are the norm in the Y2K industry she did say that the state governments of North Carolina, New York and Louisiana had begun asking for bids on testing.
She also said that American insurance companies are well prepared, and billing companies, payroll companies and other financial organizations are gearing up for the final round of testing.
Automatic Data Processing, the country's largest payroll company, handles about 30 million W-2 forms every year and says it's ready for 2000. Marketing director John Gregory said the company announced in April that its AutoPay system successfully passed an independent audit after working on the problem for 2 1/2 years.
"I'm an optimistic person by nature. I hope the world doesn't come to an end,'' Sole said with a laugh "Obviously, there will be problems, ... but I don't think we're going to be exposed to physical threats.''
BOISE, Idaho (AP) Thousands of people using outdated accounting software in their homes or businesses run the risk of being bitten by the Y2K bug a year earlier than expected.
Cougar Mountain Software Inc. of Boise rushed the newest version of its Act Plus accounting program to Lynn Electric on Thursday after the small Bluefield, W.Va., company tried to close its 1998 payroll.
It was using 3 1/2 -year-old software unable to translate dates that included the year 2000.
"All the documents reverted to 1944,'' Cougar Mountain spokesman Dave Lakhani said. "They were unable to process their payroll and had to order the update to correct the problem.''
Even with the lost man hours, potentially lost data and the hassle of trying again to close its books over the New Year's holiday weekend, Lynn Electric got off cheap. The software upgrade cost only $400.
But experts estimate larger businesses and those using customized software could face $50,000 to $100,000 expenses.
Vincent Hamm, president of Aim High Inc., a computer consulting firm in Golden, Colo., said he expects to hear similar tales of woe in coming days as accounting software users open 1999 financial calendars that typically extend 18 months into 2000.
"This is the first one that I've heard, but it makes perfect sense,'' he said. "Anytime that you've got something that's forward looking and it crosses that threshold, you've got a potential problem.''
The Y2K problem arose when programmers of early computers represented each year by its last two digits rather than by all four for example, 1972 as 72 mostly to save computer memory.
Trouble begins when computers try to add or subtract dates using that two-digit format and the world approaches the year 2000, or 00. The larger, older mainframe computers still used by government and big corporations for many vital functions are particularly vulnerable.
Lakhani said Cougar Mountain started notifying all its customers two years ago that certain software was not Y2K compliant, and initially offered free upgrades. Additional warnings were issued at least quarterly through the company's newsletter, Internet site and direct mail, he said.
Like so many others, Lynn Electric President Lindon Taylor said he did not expect it to be a problem until late 1999.
"That's what we were thinking, when it kicked over to 2000. We didn't think about it happening this year,'' said Taylor, whose company remanufactures electrical generators and motors.
The company shuts its doors on New Year's Eve each year, so employees tried to close the annual payroll records and open a 1999 file on Wednesday. Taylor said he thought upgraded software already had been installed.
"We had checked with our bank and our financial people as best we could, and we thought we didn't have a problem. But we did.''
Hamm said the first Y2K problems actually hit almost 14 months ago when users of some newly issued credit cards found computers would not recognize expiration dates in 2000, embossed as "00'' on the cards. He said it took the industry about five months to completely clear up the difficulty.
As for why Lynn Electric's computers would revert to 1944, Hamm said a number of personal computer programmers arbitrarily used that year as the start date for operating system clocks. Some PCs recognize no dates before 1944, he said, while most outdated mainframe and other larger computers simply read a date with 00 as 1900 rather than 2000.
Return to Y2K.