Computers leap last hurdle

Computer crisis monitors had to search far and wide to find trouble caused

by the extra day Leap Year added to February. They found a few.

A U.S. Coast Guard message archiving system did not recognize Feb. 29 as

a legitimate date, so it refused to archive any messages, said John Koskinen,

head of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion. And at Offut Air

Force Base in Nebraska, a computer that tracks maintenance equipment stopped

working.

Neither problem was more than a minor glitch, Koskinen announced from his

headquarters in Washington, D.C. Nineteen hours after digital calendars

around the world began to roll over to Feb. 29 at midnight Greenwich Mean

Time — 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time — the computer compliance chief reported

that the nation's and the world's mission-critical infrastructure experienced

no significant date-related computer problems.

Computer emergency response personnel were left to ponder the minor mishaps.

Confused by the date, computers in the Netherlands and Japan may have provided

inaccurate weather reports. "How could one tell?" Koskinen asked.

Bulgarian passport processing computers were unable to issue 10-year passports

because there will be no Feb. 29, 2010, for which the passports to expire.

In New Zealand, electronic fund transfer terminals refused to provide bank

account information.

And in the United States, some caller identification equipment and some

pagers displayed the date March 1 instead of Feb. 29. In many instances,

the machines corrected themselves upon receiving their first call of the

day, Koskinen said.

For the most part, 48 states and four territories were trouble-free. Power

companies continued to produce electricity, air traffic flew unimpaired.

Water systems, waste treatment plants, food services and hospitals all continued

to function.

Koskinen said Feb. 29 is the last date his computer compliance commission

plans to monitor. He said there still could be minor problems when the first

quarter ends in March or when the year ends Dec. 31 if computers have not

been programmed for a 366-day year.

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