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1998-01-13 08:54:14


Y2K Breakdowns Have Begun and Are Escalating



The effects of the Millennium Begun are steadily increasing. The disruptions have begun. Credit cards are one example.

This story is from INFOWORLD (Jan. 10).

* * * * * * *

Skeptics tend to dismiss gloomy prophecies that global chaos will ensue on Jan. 1, 2000 when the world's computers, programmed with two-digit year fields, assume it is 1900 and break down.

But tangible date field crashes are already occurring, giving IT managers early warning signals about how nasty and pervasive year-2000 problems are likely to be.

Just ask Jeff Noxon, a contract point-of-sale (POS) network programmer who recently received a new Novus/Discover card that expires in '00. When Noxon tried to use the card at a local dry cleaner, it was immediately declined by a VeriFone POS terminal, which rejected the card as expired without even dialing for authorization.

"[The merchant] just kept trying to swipe my card in vain, and it did not accept my explanation of the bug," Noxon said. "I find this especially annoying in my present occupation as a POS network programmer."

In recent weeks, validation systems have also rejected new Visa and Mastercard credit cards embossed with a '00 expiration date. The validation systems' magnetic strip readers process '00 as 1900 and reject the cards as expired. The merchants either have to call for verbal authorization or type in a 1999 expiration date. . . .

The credit card dilemma is far from an isolated incident. Seven percent of 108 IT directors and managers said their companies have already experienced a year-2000-related failure, according to a December 1997 survey conducted by Rubin Systems for systems integrator Cap Gemini America.

"The failures have been occurring every year in increasing numbers," said Jim Woodward, senior vice president of Cap Gemini America's TransMillennium Services, in Iselin, N.J. . . .

At one Fortune 500 financial services company in the Midwest, it took a good year-2000 debacle to kick start the company's millennium project. In early January 1996, the company's consumer loan system encountered the '00 date and sent about 200 customers bills for 96 years worth of interest.

"This is not what you want your credit company to do to you. The public embarrassment and the hit to stock price could have been horrendous," said the company's year-2000 project director.

The company fixed the problem in about one month by expanding the two-digit year field to four digits, only to "blow-up" inter-related systems the next month when the loan system tried to pass off four-digit year fields. . . .

"People have construed the year-2000 problem as Jan. 1, 2000," Woodward said. "Really, we're going to see severe damage occur as of Jan. 1, 1999."


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