- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 26, 2000

The nation's year-2000 czar hasn't thought much about the so-called "millennium bug" this year.

While 2000 presented a potential threat to computers, 2001 the real beginning of the new millennium does not.

John Koskinen, formerly the chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, isn't worried the change to the year 2001 will lead to computer malfunctions.

"We thought the last meaningful date was Feb. 29 [Leap Day], and to the extent that went fine, there are no real concerns any longer," said Mr. Koskinen, now the District of Columbia's deputy mayor and city administrator.

Technology experts feared computers and other electronic equipment originally programmed to recognize only the last two digits of a year would fail or malfunction on Jan. 1, 2000, when the machines could mistake the new year for 1900. They had the same concern that computers would fail to recognize Feb. 29 Leap Day. Leap Day is observed in years ending with a double zero only once every 400 years in 1600 and 2000, for example.

But on New Year's Day, Mr. Koskinen took just 15 minutes to declare victory against the glitch.

Computer problems that happen Jan. 1 shouldn't be attributed to the date change, said Bruce Webster, formerly head of the Washington D.C. Year 2000 Group, a group of programmers, consultants, and government and corporate officials.

"There are a sufficient number of computer problems that happen every day. If there are any on Jan. 1, they will get lost in the noise of problems that occur all the time," Mr. Webster said.

The potential for computer problems last New Year's Day was good for the nation's technology network because the federal government spent $8.5 billion to upgrade equipment. Private companies in the United States spent about $100 billion updating computers, and an estimated $300 billion to $600 billion was spent on computer systems worldwide.

Not only did the potential for problems lead to much-needed spending to improve computer systems, but year-2000 threats also led to a better understanding in boardrooms across the country of the need to take inventory of corporate information technology, Mr. Koskinen said.

"There were lessons learned. People knew it was important, but until CEOs and boards of directors had to look at the implications of failures of their computer systems, they didn't realize how important their information technology was," he said.

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