University computers ready for 9-9-99

Josh Linehan

University officials expect little effect on campus computer systems resulting from Thursday’s date of Sept. 9, 1999, which is widely considered a test run for Y2K computer trouble.
Problems could arise because some computer programs might recognize the Thursday date, a field of nines, as a stop-program command.
Y2K planners worldwide are using this situation to monitor what could go wrong on Jan. 1, 2000, when many problems are expected.
Ken Hanna, University Y2K compliance director, said his office will be monitoring the situation, but he does not expect major problems.
“There shouldn’t be any major, mission-critical problems as far as mainstream computer use,” Hanna said.
Students should expect no more problems than usual in public computing labs, said Jerry Larson, head of East Bank public computing facilities.
Larson anticipates only problems common at the beginning of an academic year.
“I’m confident the microcomputer labs are up to speed. The beginning of a new semester represents a bigger problem to us,” said Larson.
Glitches will be most likely to occur in older mainframe computers, where a stop command of four nines was used in coding for a short time. Personal computers are unlikely to be affected.
While the University expects few problems, Steve Cawley, interim associate vice president, said officials are taking no chances.
“We are fully ready for Thursday, as well as Y2K, but we will keep a full staff on standby to monitor all systems potentially affected,” Cawley said.
Thursday’s problems will be less prevalent than Y2K problems because the 9999 stop command was used sparingly and because four sequential nines are much easier to see in lines of computer code.
Using two digits to represent the year is much more common. Potential problems on New Year’s Day in 2000 include power outages, flight disruption and losses of financial and other records.
Similar precautions were taken on April 9, the 99th day of the 99th year, but few complications arose. Y2K compliance officials will also face problems on Feb. 29, 2000, when some computers might not recognize the first leap year of the new millennium.

— Josh Linehan covers science and technology and welcomes comments at [email protected]