Looking out before we leap

The last time the world faced major leap year troubles, the year was 1600

and it took some countries more than 100 years to fix the glitch.

John Koskinen, who studies such things, is predicting much less trouble

this Feb. 29. There may be "minor or modest glitches and it can be remedied

quickly," said the president's special assistant on Year 2000 conversion


Koskinen, who helped shepherd the government's computer systems through

a virtually trouble-free Year 2000 date change, is gearing up for another

night of watching and waiting. The trouble this time is that computers fixed

to recognize "00" as 2000 and not 1900, may not recognize that this February

has 29 days.

The reason for confusion is that leap years do not always occur at the end

of a century. For example, 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years. And

2100, 2200 and 2300 won't be either.

When to leap is governed by three rules:

* If a year is divisible by four, it is a leap year.

* If the year is divisible by 100, it is not a leap year.

* However, if a year divisible by 100 also is divisible by 400, then it

is a leap year.

In case of computer trouble, Koskinen is mobilizing his federal troops to

monitor computer compliance today and Wednesday.

Federal agencies are being asked to report regularly to Koskinen's Information

Coordination Center a few blocks from the White House. Computer trouble-shooters

will be there ready to help.

Most systems tested for Year 2000 compliance also were tested for leap year

compliance, Koskinen said. Banks, the stock market, financial institutions

and government agencies are almost certainly prepared. Koskinen also said

the leap year is not expected to affect embedded chips that caused concern

Dec. 31.

No havoc is expected the likes of what happened four centuries ago.

"In the late 1500s when they adjusted the calendar, the adjustment was made

by simply eliminating 10 days," Koskinen said. The date changed from Sept.

5 to Sept. 15 and it took some countries more than a century to adjust.

"Life was different then."


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