Koskinen "pleasantly surprised" by date rollover

With the first two US time zones crossed into the year 2000 and 98 per cent of the world's population now entered into the new year, John Koskinen, President Clinton's Y2K czar, noted the lack of computer problems globally and said that he is "pleasantly surprised" by how smoothly things have gone so far.

Critical industry sectors such as energy, transportation and telecommunications, and government operations continued normally worldwide with only minor computer-related problems. Some early reports of computer trouble, including one of two monitoring systems at Japanese nuclear reactors, had been found to not have been caused by the date rollover, said Koskinen, who is chairman of the President's Council on Y2K Conversion.

Similarly, problems at nuclear reactors in Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina were found to be unrelated to the year 2000 date, he said.

One repeated glitch has popped up at eight unidentified utility plants in the eastern and Midwestern US. The glitch has occurred in systems that synchronize time at the plants with the satellite-based GPS (global positioning system). The problem has not caused outages - indeed there have been no utility outages reported anywhere in the world linked to the date change - and also is not believed to be tied to GPS, but rather is suspected to be in software at the plants. US officials said during the first press briefing of the new year that they think the problem will be fixed soon.

"Apparently, it's a simple fix," Koskinen said.

Earlier in the evening, Koskinen flew from Washington, DC, to New York City and back without incident. Similarly, Jane Garvey of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flew on a plane loaded with reporters across US time zones. Air traffic worldwide moved into the new year when midnight arrived in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

According to surveys taken of US companies in recent days, date-related computer problems have been occurring but have not affected services and therefore haven't been particularly noteworthy, Koskinen said.

Globally, problems also have been minor. One of three stock exchanges in Pakistan closed before the rollover there and that shutdown is believed to have been related to the year 2000 computer problem, Koskinen said. No computer problems have been reported worldwide that affect safety or that have caused any sort of widespread effect, he said.

Koskinen and other officials have continued to warn that computer problems are likely to show up in the days ahead, particularly as companies resume operations next week following the holiday weekend. More will be known when companies tackle billing operations, payroll, financial management and accounting functions in the new year, he said.

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