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1998-03-10 09:58:57


New York Faces a Disaster



Central New York state faces a disaster. The extent of this disaster is not perceived by those who will suffer it. A few public officials have admitted that it's a disaster. This article quotes one: "I don't think the general public really understands how bad the situation is," says Rick Hogan, director of Oswego County's Central Services Department.

This is from the Syracuse POST-STANDARD (March 6).

* * * * * * *

Last week, Citicorp reported it expects to spend $600 million to protect its computers from the "millennium bug," as the problem has come to be called.

Governments face the daunting task with fewer employees. Large technology companies are luring away programmers with offers of higher salaries and incentives.

Onondaga County's government already has lost six. . . .

"There are going to be some serious problems nationwide, and a lot of them will be hidden until they happen," said Rick Hogan, director of Oswego County's Central Services Department. "We're all under the gun. Everyone's going to have to deal with this, and it's not going to be pretty."

Here's an idea of what could happen if the conversion work isn't done soon and done right:

Most nuclear power plants rely on microcomputers. Chips with inaccurate dates could skew how safety monitors function and when safety valves are opened and closed.

"Almost anything that's computer-based is affected by this, and we have a bundle of them," said Alberto Bianchetti, spokesman for Niagara Mohawk Power Corp., which runs Nine Mile I and II in Scriba.

Equipment such as pumps, valves and control panels for reactors must be converted quickly to ensure public safety, he said.

A jail in California almost released early two violent felons sentenced to 100 years each because computers indicated their parole dates were in '97. They are actually to be released in 2097.

Local prisons also rely on microprocessors to help determine release dates and regulate security systems.

"Almost everything we have is on computer," said Patricia Mosely, assistant commissioner of Onondaga County's Department of Corrections. . . .

Overall, experts estimate the conversion will cost $500 billion and require 400,000 programmers. . . .

"Things like child welfare registry, the child abuse registry - we have to make those compliant," said Davis. The state has identified 300 "high priority" systems that must be converted.

Of those, 40 have a direct impact on public safety, health and welfare, Davis said. "We're committed to having those be compliant no matter what."

About 1,000 state workers are tackling the conversion job.

At the smaller municipal levels, the numbers are lower, but the concerns are the same.

"I don't think the general public really understands how bad the situation is," said Oswego County's Hogan. "Hopefully, the year 2000 won't come, because I don't know that anyone will be ready for it." . . .

In most cases, programmers can double or triple their salaries by jumping to private industry.


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