BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Sci/Tech
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Friday, 5 January, 2001, 12:53 GMT
The last bite of the bug
Bug Action 2000
The bug is biting a bit later than expected
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

A year later than expected, the Millennium Bug is biting organisations around the world.

This week, news has emerged about four incidents thought to have been caused by the computer glitch.

A Swedish bank, 7-Eleven convenience stores, Norwegian trains and Jury members in Oregon have all been affected by date-related program problems.

These computer anomalies may be the last gasp of the bug because they seem to be hitting only those organisations that did not realise that 2000 was a leap year.

New Year hangover

January 2000 was supposed to be the date that the Millennium Bug bit deepest, but it passed without the worldwide meltdown feared by some experts.

The bug arose because some computer programmers used only two digits to record dates. When the year rolled over from 99 to 00, some machines interpreted this to mean that 1900 had only just dawned.

What seems to have caused problems this January was the fact that many programmers did not realise that 2000 was a leap year. As a result, 2001 appeared to arrive a day early for some computers and they crashed in reaction.

Convenience store chain 7-Eleven was hit by this problem. On 1 January, many of the cash registers in its 19,600 stores or affiliates around the world lost the ability to process credit cards.

Cashed out

Thinking that it was 1901, the tills rejected credit cards that looked like they had been issued 100 years into the future.

A spokeswoman for 7-Eleven said it spent $8.8 (6.2) million on its bug prevention program that left it largely free of problems until 2001 arrived.

"We did about 10,000 tests on it, and it was working fine until Monday," she said, adding that the problem was fixed by Wednesday.

Another bug-related glitch is thought to have made the online, telebanking and cash machine systems operated by Swedish bank Nordbanken unreliable over the Christmas and New Year period.

The systems crashed five times between 27 December and 3 January, rendering them unusable and leaving many of the bank's 3.5 million customers frustrated and short of cash.

Turning back time

Nordbanken has yet to say what caused the problems. The Swedish banking regulator is demanding an explanation for the glitches.

Also hit by the bug were residents of Multnomah county in Oregon, US, who were summoned for jury duty. Almost 3,000 received letters asking them to turn up in 1901.

An investigation revealed that the problem was caused by lazy court workers who were using only two digits to describe January 2001 dates. If they had used four, the court computer systems would have recognised the date correctly.

Finally, earlier this week, the bug was blamed for disrupting the running of some Norwegian trains that refused to recognise the last day of 2000. The trains were made to run again by turning their internal clocks back a month.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

01 Jan 01 | Europe
Bug derails Norwegian trains
31 Dec 00 | World
Millennium madness
05 Oct 00 | Business
The Millennium bug bites back
14 May 00 | Scotland
Millennium bug bites couple
12 Apr 00 | Talking Point
Do we rely too much on computers?
13 Sep 99 | Health
NHS shaking off millennium bug
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Sci/Tech stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Sci/Tech stories