- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 7, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — When daylight-saving time starts earlier than usual in the United States come 2007, your video recorder could start recording shows an hour late.

Cell-phone companies could give you an extra hour of free weekend calls, and people who depend on online calendars may find themselves late for appointments.

An energy bill that President Bush is to sign today would start daylight-saving time three weeks earlier and end it a week later as an energy-saving measure.

That has technologists worried about software and gadgets that now compensate for daylight-saving time based on a schedule unchanged since 1987.

“It is, unfortunately, going to add a little bit of complexity to consumers,” said Reid Sullivan, vice president of the entertainment group at Panasonic Consumer Electronics Co. “In some cases, depending on the product, they may have to manually increase or decrease the time.”

The upcoming transition evokes memories of the year 2000 rollover that forced programmers to adjust software and other systems that, relying on two digits for the year, never took the 21st century into account.

“It wouldn’t be a societywide catastrophe, but there would be a problem if nothing’s done about it or we try to move too quickly,” said Dave Thewlis, executive director of a group that promotes standards for calendar software.

Newer video recorders have built-in calendars to adjust automatically for daylight-saving time. Users would have to override the devices, switching to “manual” to ensure that shows continue to record correctly.

Computers with Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating systems would need to obtain updates. Though most affected applications likely would be handled by the Microsoft fix, calendar systems will need to be checked to ensure that appointments already entered are adjusted properly.

Some electric utilities have advanced meters to adjust rates based on peak and non-peak hours, and studies would be required to determine whether any modifications are needed. The telecommunications industry, meanwhile, must ensure that its clocks are adjusted to bill customers properly.

Adding to the complications is the fact that many computer programs now treat U.S. and Canadian time zones as the same. If Canada doesn’t adopt the new dates, too, Windows, calendars and other software would have to learn additional zones.

Technologists sounded louder alarms as the year 2000 approached. The programming shortcut caused some computers to interpret 2000 as 1900, potentially fouling systems that control power grids, air traffic, banking systems and phone networks.

Businesses and governments around the world threw about $200 billion at the problem, and the transition occurred without any worldwide disaster, even leading some critics to suggest they were victims of a big-money bamboozle.

The daylight-saving transition will be at most a miniature version of the year 2000 rollover, with the impact of any failure far less reaching.

“We’re looking only at a one-hour difference versus setting back [the clock] 99 years,” said Randall Palm of the Computing Technology Industry Association.

Dan Bart of the Telecommunications Industry Association said year 2000 fears stemmed from computers completely crashing rather than simply displaying a wrong time.

Many systems have means for self-correction.

Video recorders, for instance, can synch with time signals sent over PBS broadcasts and through electronic programming guides.

Some watches from Timex Inc. can adjust times based on radio signals from the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology and other government sources.

The digital clocks on cell phones generally are synched with the service provider’s network clock. Operating systems from Microsoft, Apple Computer Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. can be configured to check periodically with Internet-based “time servers,” though such servers tend to use Greenwich Mean Time and leave daylight-saving time to local machines.

Joe Tasker, senior vice president for government affairs at the Information Technology Association of America, points out that daylight-saving time already varies around the world, and some parts of the United States don’t observe it at all.

“We already are used to having a system in place that specifies all the information that we need” for a particular region, Mr. Tasker said. “It’s just a question of changing the effective date.”

Some European countries changed dates in response to a directive from the European Union to standardize daylight-saving time beginning in 1996. That led to problems with Finnish dates in at least one version of Windows. A few countries change dates every year.

Israel, for instance, bases daylight-saving time on the lunar Jewish calendar, and Palestinians change their clocks at different times as an assertion of independence. Windows doesn’t even provide an auto-adjust option for the time zone covering Jerusalem.

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