Y2K task force
Most Furman systems should be OK
January 1, 2000
Monday, January 3 — the first work day of the new millennium.
first thing you notice is that your office is cold. Very cold. Then
your computer doesn’t power up. You pick up the phone to call the Help
Desk and Betty Fowler at Facilities Services to get some answers. But
there’s no dial tone.
walk outside and see a growing group of harried students, staff and
faculty gathered outside the administration building. Then President
Shi, disheveled and unshaven, appears. He stands on the raised stump
of a chain-sawed oak tree and makes the following pronouncement:
to Saturday’s catastrophic missile strike, the impending nuclear winter
and other matters beyond the university’s control, Furman will temporarily
close. For years I have preached the virtues of a simple life. Now that
we have no electricity and society has collapsed, we all have the opportunity
to lead one.”
recent months, it seems, everyone has weighed in with an opinion on
the effects of Y2K, the millennium bug. Opinions, some of them ripe
with paranoia, vary; some people fear nuclear annihilation, others expect
only minor annoyances.
even read a report that suggested that all the pacemakers would shut
down,” chuckles Richard Nelson, director of Computing and Information
Services, who does not have a pacemaker.
only thing for certain is that no one is certain what will happen.
problem dates back to the 1950s, when early computer programmers identified
years with only the last two digits. As the year 2000 approaches, these
computers and programs will read the year as 00, or 1900. The most common
and damaging problem occurs when software has been written to store
and/or manipulate dates using only two digits for the year. Calculations
built upon these dates will not execute properly because they will not
see dates in the 21st century as being larger numbers than those in
the 20th century.
says all computers installed at Furman during the last three years should
be “Y2K compliant,” or immune to the problem. However, this does not
mean that software running on these systems is compliant. Computing
and Information Services staff are confident that all of the major university
administrative systems will function properly, as will electronic mail,
web, and file and print services.
ensure that no computers or applications are overlooked, a Y2K task
force composed of 20 employees representing a variety of departments
is taking an inventory of all systems that might be affected by the
think that once we have studied the inventory we will find that there
will be very few systems that are at risk,” says Nelson.
addition to computer hardware and software, machines impacted by Y2K
might be microwaves, fax machines, telephone answering machines and
voice mail systems. But the operations of some of those machines may
not be date sensitive, making them a “low risk,” says Nelson. For example,
a microwave with a built-in calendar that is not Y2K compliant will
continue to heat food, but may lack some of its advanced features.
determining which systems are non-compliant, the university will prioritize
upgrades, repairing or replacing first those that are “mission-critical.”
Furman is reviewing all vendors and assessing the risks associated with
Y2K failure by any of them. Furman is also working to obtain Y2K compliance
reports from those vendors.