Computers leap last hurdle
- By William Matthews
- Feb 29, 2000
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
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
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
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.