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 You are in: Special Report: 1998: 03/98: millennium bug  
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Tuesday, 16 June, 1998, 21:20 GMT 22:20 UK
Millennium bug to hit more than computers
No one knows for sure what will happen at 0001 on January 1st, 2000 but it is feared that without urgent action many computers could fail with serious ramifications for all aspects of life. Our science correspondent David Whitehouse reports

Modern society relies on computers. They are a vital part of banking, transport, communications and hospitals. Few aspects of modern life are not touched by the influence of a computer somewhere.

The problem is that older computers used only two digits to denote the year so that 1999 would be represented by '99.' This means that the year 2000 becomes '00' and many computers will not like this and either crash or think that the date is 1900! It is not technically a computer bug but a limitation of the computers original programming.

Modern computers do not suffer from this limitation and will cope with the 2000 date change but many older systems will need checking.

Fixing an individual computer can be straightforward or it can be a nightmare. Some supermarkets for example have computers with millions of lines of computer instructions each of which has to be checked for date references.

Large and small companies will need to check their computers and those of their suppliers.

It is not just computers that may be affected. Almost anything with a microprocessor chip could be vulnerable. Video recorders, central heating and air conditioning controls could be affected.

There are less than 56m seconds before the year 2000 date change and many experts say that it is already too late to check and fix all the computers that might be affected.

Links to more millennium bug stories are at the foot of the page.


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