Leap Day a Mere Nuisance

FRAMINGHAM (03/03/2000) - Just as most organizations cruised past Jan. 1 without the serious computer glitches predicted by doomsayers, they made it through leap day, Feb. 29, with only minor nuisances.

For example, 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, thanks to a leap-day problem. The electronic key system was down for several hours, the hotel confirmed.

The original concern was that the leap year's extra day could baffle real-time clocks, operating systems and application logic. Most years ending in "00" aren't leap years, but 2000 is a leap year because it's divisible by 400.

The Westin hotel problem was similar to those reported to the White House and international authorities. Leap day didn't cause major infrastructure failures, but it produced some frustrations, such as a baggage-handling delay at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va.

Glitches in the Private Sector

Among private-sector companies, White House Y2k czar John Koskinen said the center received reports of a couple of companies with payroll system problems caused by the leap year. A cataloging company also reported a date-related glitch. The firms weren't identified. "There really haven't been many private-sector problems," Koskinen said.

Sprint Corp. said its system that delivers the recorded message "the number you dialed is not in service" was hit by the leap-day bug. "It didn't recognize Feb. 29 as a valid date, and the system shut down," said spokesman Russ Robinson. Only a few callers experienced a problem, he said.

Dale Vecchio, an analyst at Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn., said the combination of the century rollover and the leap year gave organizations plenty of incentive to remediate their systems. "I hope this leap day brings closure to the year 2000 problem," Vecchio said.

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

Peter de Jager, the renowned Brampton, Ontario, year 2000 consultant, said he was unaware of any major problems resulting from the leap year.

And while the Y2k project experience may have convinced many information technology people that ongoing documentation and systems maintenance can prevent future problems, de Jager isn't convinced that managers have learned their lessons about date logic and documentation.

"The whole strategy of windowing [a Y2k programming shortcut used by most organizations to avoid expanding date fields] will come back to haunt us. It hasn't been documented properly," he said.

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