New Year revellers around the globe are awaking this morning to find power supplies on, telephones working, and aircraft safely aloft, after the worst fears about Year 2000 computer problems failed to materialize -- for the time being, at least.
Aside from scattered incidents, power supplies, communications services and transport systems in most regions made it into the new year without any major hiccups, according to statements issued by governments and businesses around the world. There was also scant evidence that computer hackers or "cyber-terrorists" had used Y2K as a cover to launch attacks on computer systems, as some had feared.
In the U.K., the first planes landed safely this morning at Heathrow and Gatwick, London's two main airports, and air traffic controllers reported that all systems were working normally. Automated teller machines didn't spew out reams of 10-pound notes when Big Ben chimed midnight, and credit cards were accepting payments early this morning, according to the U.K.'s Government Millennium Centre.
In the U.S., as of 2 a.m. EST no problems had been reported with traffic signals or electronic tolls. Amtrak said its rail system hadn't been affected by the date-change, and the U.S.'s 10 major airlines also had experienced no disruptions as of early today, according to a statement from the U.S.
Department of Transportation.
Other governments, including those of Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong issued similar assurances.
Visa International said this afternoon that it had received no reports yet of any customers around the world having trouble using their credit cards.
"It's going very well, we certainly made it through all the real-time issues," said John Chaplin, an executive vice president with Visa's business systems and services division. "Obviously people will be checking their statements to make sure the right payments went through," he added.
Like other companies, Visa will continue to monitor its systems closely in the coming weeks, Chaplin said.
Indeed, many experts agree that although the millennium bug failed to strike much of a blow at midnight on New Year's Eve, it may be weeks or months before the extent of any damage is known. One industry group watching Y2K has maintained all along that any real problems were unlikely to materialize at the stroke of midnight.
"Focussing on the roll-over date is the wrong thing to do; it's the easiest thing for an organization to test for," Rob Wilson, assistant director for the U.K.'s Task Force 2000, said this morning.
Minor glitches are likely to emerge in the coming weeks in any number of different types of systems that use dates, including payroll systems, bank accounts, insurance records and ticketing systems, Wilson said. Task Force 2000 is concerned that those glitches, while minor in themselves, could accumulate and wreak havoc for some unfortunate individuals.
"You need to look at what happens in January and February to get a view of how harmful the bug will be," Wilson said.
An analyst with IT research firm Gartner Group Inc. earlier this week echoed those sentiments. Fewer than 10 percent of Year-2000 related computer problems are likely to occur in the first few days after the rollover, and 55 percent of problems will be spread throughout the year, the analyst said. [See "Gartner Group Sees No New Year's Calamities," Dec. 28]Y2K watchers have fingered Feb. 29 as a date for possible further Y2K-related disruptions. 2000 is a leap year, and computers that think they are in the twentieth century, rather than the twenty first, might not recognize the date.
"You can't sound the all clear until the first of March, although we're confident (the leap year issue) has been taken care of too," Visa's Chaplin said.
Meanwhile, businesses around the world were quick to issue statements boasting that their systems had made it through the opening hours of 2000 without a hitch. An estimated half-trillion dollars has been spent worldwide in the last decade to prepare computer systems for the date-change.