Computers Leap Last Hurdle

WASHINGTON (03/01/2000) - Computer crisis monitors had to search far and wide to find trouble caused by the extra day Leap Year added to February. They found a few.

A U.S. Coast Guard message archiving system did not recognize Feb. 29 as a legitimate date, so it refused to archive any messages, said John Koskinen, head of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion. And at Offut Air Force Base in Nebraska, a computer that tracks maintenance equipment stopped working.

Neither problem was more than a minor glitch, Koskinen announced from his headquarters in Washington, D.C. Nineteen hours after digital calendars around the world began to roll over to Feb. 29 at midnight Greenwich Mean Time - 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time - the computer compliance chief reported that the nation's and the world's mission-critical infrastructure experienced no significant date-related computer problems.

Computer emergency response personnel were left to ponder the minor mishaps.

Confused by the date, computers in the Netherlands and Japan may have provided inaccurate weather reports. "How could one tell?" Koskinen asked.

Bulgarian passport processing computers were unable to issue 10-year passports because there will be no Feb. 29, 2010, for which the passports to expire.

In New Zealand, electronic fund transfer terminals refused to provide bank account information.

And in the United States, some caller identification equipment and some pagers displayed the date March 1 instead of Feb. 29. In many instances, the machines corrected themselves upon receiving their first call of the day, Koskinen said.

For the most part, 48 states and four territories were trouble-free. Power companies continued to produce electricity, air traffic flew unimpaired. Water systems, waste treatment plants, food services and hospitals all continued to function.

Koskinen said Feb. 29 is the last date his computer compliance commission plans to monitor. He said there still could be minor problems when the first quarter ends in March or when the year ends Dec. 31 if computers have not been programmed for a 366-day year.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

More about First CallGreenwich Mean Time

Show Comments