Leap Day Skips Past With Few Problems

Most organizations passed through Jan. 1, 2000, with few computer glitches, in contrast to the nuclear winter scenario espoused by some consultants, religious fundamentalists and the popular media.

Then came February, and with it an extra day, which some experts speculated could baffle real-time clocks, operating systems and application logic.

But that, too, has passed without much ado, although a few interesting problems have emerged.

One executive reported checking into the Westin Copley Place Hotel in Boston at 3 a.m. on Feb. 29, but was unable to get an electronic room key until later in the day.

Steve Pellegrino, a spokesman for the hotel, confirmed that the company's guest key system, called Saflok, was down for several hours until noon on Tuesday, thus making it impossible to create magnetic keys for hotel guests. According to Pellegrino, a leap year-compliant version of the software exists but had not been installed at all Westin hotels.

As a work-around, the Westin Copley Place used a set of permanent backup keys during the hours the system was down, Pellegrino said.

Peter de Jager, the renowned Brampton, Ontario, Y2k consultant, said he was unaware of any major problems resulting from the leap-year rollover. De Jager did say that he received an e-mail message from someone who claimed his Timex wristwatch jumped from Feb. 28 to March 1 without registering Feb. 29. Officials at Timex were not immediately available for comment.

Dale Vecchio, an analyst at Gartner Group said the prospect of a century rollover - combined with a leap year - gave organizations added incentive to remediate their systems. "I hope this leap day brings closure to the year 2000 problem," Vecchio said.

Vecchio noted there were other specific dates that were expected to be troublemakers, including July 1, 1999 - the beginning of a new fiscal year for many companies - and Sept. 9, 1999, sometimes entered as 9999 or 999 in some computer programs, a routine that some programmers use to signify an end point in a routine. Neither date yielded any serious problems.

Vecchio said that Feb. 29, just like those other nuisance dates, also has not created any major problems. "Solutions to these and other Y2k issues that may come up have now fallen into the general systems maintenance bucket," Vecchio said.

Still, there were some problems reported in Japan, according to the IDG News Service. The Meteorological Agency there said it experienced some glitches with its Automated Meteorological Data Acquisition System (AMeDAS) network of weather-monitoring stations.

Some stations in western and southwestern Japan reported erroneous rain, wind and temperature measurements early Tuesday morning, the agency said.

Another failure hit the automatic teller machine network in Japan's post office, affecting service at approximately 5 percent of its 25,000 machines nationwide. The post office said the machines printed receipts bearing the date March 1.

Alan Arnold, director of Ernst & Young LLP's advanced development center said, "Either we've done a pretty good job (in remediating mainframe systems), or clients haven't reported problems."

Reflecting on all of the work done to fix the Y2k problem, Peter de Jager said it "astounded me that we pulled this off."

And while the Y2k project experience may have convinced many IT people that ongoing documentation and systems maintenance can prevent future problems, de Jager isn't convinced that managers have learned their lesson. "The whole strategy of windowing (a shortcut Y2k programming technique used by most organizations without expanding date fields to four characters) will come back to haunt us. It has not been documented properly."

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