Y2K chief warns of dormant date-change problems

Despite confidence that "99.9 percent" of the federal government's computer systems are ready for the year-end date rollover, computer experts will staff a crisis center around the clock until mid-January, the government's top Year 2000 official said.

An Information Coordination Center a few blocks from the White House will monitor critical government and private-sector computer systems and provide assistance if the systems encounter problems caused by the Year 2000 computer glitch.

It could take days, weeks or even months for some computer problems caused by the Year 2000 date change to show up, warned John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion.

Disaster at the stroke of midnight is unlikely, said Koskinen. "We do not expect to see any major national failures a result of the date change," Koskinen said. "Systems supporting key parts of the infrastructure—electric power grids, telecommunications and financial networks, air traffic control and other major transportation systems—are well prepared for the Year 2000," he said during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The Year 2000 computer problem can occur when a computer incorrectly interprets the Year 2000, designated as "00," to be the year 1900, causing calculation errors or complete failure.

If problems occur, they are more likely to crop up gradually. Faulty programs would lead to a gradual loss of the ability to manage systems, and they could slowly shut down, he said.

To head off trouble, hundreds of thousands of federal, state and private-sector employees will be working over the three-day New Year's weekend, testing and, if necessary, fixing computer systems.

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