It's 9999 yawns

The IT industry yawned yesterday when questioned on its concern about today's date - 9/9/99, or 9999 in Cobol terms.

Y2K is occupying an increasingly large portion of IT managers' mindshare (and tabloid newspapers column inches) but today being a "warm-up" for 2000 has barely raised an eyebrow in the industry.

The potential for problems could arise when old software, generally Cobol applications, reads the date string 9999 as an end of field or program command. That could result in programs halting or producing the wrong results.

Paul Dwan, IT manager at Golden Circle, doesn't expect computer problems today. The company no longer has any Cobol program, having migrated to Progress 4GL.

No problems have occurred in testing, Dwan said, adding that in 1997 the company had checked, and corrected, any hard-coded dates that could have caused a problem.

Chris Benthian, IT manager, of HBF in Western Australia said testing for a variety of dates, including today, January 1 2000 and the leap year, had indicated today's date would not cause problems.

However, some January 1 and leap year dates "had slipped through the net", Benthian said, but had since been corrected.

Likewise, Lee Bourke, MIS manager at Greyhound Pioneer is not expecting any hiccups.

"We've only got two pieces of Cobol code, and they're on relatively unimportant systems," he said. Bourke said the code had been checked and he did not expect any failures.

A director of information systems who did not wish to be named, said he had tested his company's systems for today's date and did not expect problems.

"Fourteen years ago, we realised Y2K would be coming to hit us in the face," he said. "So we developed a data calculation routine [which] ensured that all programs used no internal dates. We do not allow use of dates in programs.

"Nowhere in the code do we make date calculations."

He said that when a date is needed programs refer to an "outside module" which does not express the date as 9999, but rather as 19990909 Tony Jensen, senior systems analyst at Queensland Rail is "not even concerned" and Andrew Young, MIS manager at South Pacific Tyres, believes 9999 is "a bit of a myth". Young said systems usually filed September 9 as 09/09/99.

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