Y2K: More Signs of the Time

The Federal Reserve ordered extra money put into circulation in the event people made a run on banks and automated teller machines. That put $200 billion in government vaults, up from the $150 billion normally held in reserve.

The Office of Management and Budget estimated that federal expenses related to the Y2K problem would total $8.38 billion over five years, ending in September.

From the "even if it failed, it may not have been a Y2K bug" file:

-- 1% to 2% of the nation's 227,000 ATMs are down or out of cash at any given moment.

-- One in 10 credit-card transactions fail because of equipment breakdowns, over-the-limit accounts or consumer errors.

-- In the past three years, weather problems or equipment failures knocked out power for almost 1.7 million customers in the U.S. and Canada in late December or early January.

-- There is an average of just over four rail accidents per year on New Year's Day.

-- Pipelines carrying natural gas and other hazardous materials averaged 16 reportable disruptions for Dec. 31 through Jan. 3 over the past three years.

-- Public telephone network connections to 911 emergency centers fail somewhere in the country nearly every week.

-- Over the past two years, an average of 41 phone system failures affecting at least 30,000 customers for at least 30 minutes have occurred between January and March.

-- An average of 25 suspected computer intrusions are reported daily (many affecting multiple users).Sources: President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion; Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions; Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie Mellon University; The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 17, 1999Just 20% of 241 IT executives surveyed by Computerworld last summer said they planned to halt all hardware, software and services purchases during the latter part of 1999. Forty percent expected year 2000 freezes to reduce their total IT spending by 1%, to 20%. The good news for IT vendors at the time: 80% of the spending being withheld was to go to other IT projects. Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn., meanwhile, said it found that only 5% of all companies worldwide planned to impose a complete systems freeze.

In a Gallop Organization poll of 1,426 people in October and November, banking consumers sounded optimistic about the effects of any Y2K glitches:

-- 55% considered it unlikely ATMs would fail.

-- 59% believed direct deposit processing wouldn't be a problem.

-- 60% said they felt that temporary loss of access to cash was unlikely.

-- 60% believed credit-card systems were unlikely to fail.

-- 66% felt that problems with check processing were unlikely.

-- 70% had received Y2K-readiness information from their banks.

-- 90% were confident their bank was ready for Y2K.

-- 39% said they would definitely or probably keep extra cash on hand.

Among the accommodations made for the many Y2K-related workers: Nike Inc. held a "Celebrate New Year's Eve Early" party - last July - complete with a 32-piece Guy Lombardo-like orchestra, cans of Spam, toilet paper and survival kits, according to a Nov. 24 Cable News Network story.

Y2K signposts from Computerworld's files:n 1991: Consultant Randall L.

Hitchens' column "Dating Problems Now? Wait 'til the Year 2000," in which he says that organizations that use computers "are sitting on a time bomb," appears on Jan. 28.

-- 1993: Peter de Jager's "Doomsday 2000" article, warning of dangers and costs of Y2K problem, appears in Computerworld.

-- 1995: IBM acknowledges the Y2K bug and announces plans to provide its customers with services, tools and support to make "timely year 2000 transitions."

-- 1996: Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) warns President Clinton of the "extreme negative economic consequences" that the Y2K issue poses.

-- 1997: At an industry summit, Microsoft Corp. CEO Bill Gates blames Y2K worries on those who "love to tell tales of fear." A year later, Microsoft acknowledges being "slow" on the Y2K uptake.

-- 1998: The White House appoints John Koskinen as its Y2K czar. Most government agencies get a failing grade in Y2K readiness.

A toll-free federal hot line operated under contract to the General Services Administration received 220,000 calls between Jan. 1, 1999, and Dec. 15, according to The Washington Post. A recorded message last week said,"As of this time, there have not been any year 2000 problems reported around the world."

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