Y2K: The final countdown

Australian enterprises are unperturbed by this week's Y2K failure of a swipe-card banking system in the UK, with major local corporations expecting a very quiet evening tonight.

Hong Kong Shanghai Bank (HSBC) faces legal action from thousands of retailers after a Y2K problem temporarily disabled more than 10,000 credit card terminals on Wednesday. The terminals failed thanks to a four-day calendar feature that requires the terminals to recognise the year 2000, a bank spokeswoman said.

Local banking officials have confirmed the terminals are not distributed in Australia.

"It's very peculiar that someone missed something so obvious," David Burden, Qantas' executive general manager of corporate services, said of the failure.

Burden said Qantas systems had passed last-minute accelerated time tests and was expecting a "very boring evening". However, the airline is taking additional anti-virus measures, such as limiting incoming and outgoing e-mail use, as a further precaution. Furthermore, Burden said all Qantas pilots were trained to fly without assistance from air traffic control systems.

"There's always a misconception that the air traffic control systems," Burden said. "Pilots are trained to fly without those systems."

Such systems are only necessary in areas with congested airspace, Burden said. "And nowhere in the world will there be congested airspace [at midnight]," he said.

A spokesperson from ANZ Bank said it would be business as usual for the "couple of hundred" of employees manning its global reporting centre in Melbourne.

"It may well turn out to be the most significant non-event of the century," the spokesperson said.

He said ANZ would issue a report from the New Zealand date change around 10pm Australian time. A local statement would be issued around 1.30am on January 1, he said. Cash demand from ANZ's ATMs was "slightly up on normal", but the bank hadn't experienced the expected rush on large amounts of cash, the spokesperson said.

Brian Fitzgerald, spokesperson for the Commonwealth Bank, is "fully confident all our systems to continue to operate as normal". The bank has spent $115 million over almost four years of Y2K remediation work.

Compaq will have around 100 people either on site, on call or at customer sites, said company spokesperson Anne Eckert.

"We're confident about the work we've done," Eckert said. "We're feeling as confident and as prepared as possible."

And at Optus, the major concern is not for systems compliance, but for potential systems overload by over-zealous revellers. A company spokesperson said Optus could not guarantee its phone lines, particularly its mobile network and local wire lines, would have the capacity to cope with demand.

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