The year-2000 computer problem, long thought to bedevil old mainframe computers, might also curse a host of household appliances such as security alarm systems, VCRs and microwave ovens, two congressmen said Monday.
“The potential scope of this situation is vast,” Rep. Stephen Horn, R-Calif., who called a news conference to raise consumer awareness about the looming problem of computers adapting to the year 2000 changeover. “Date conversion failure may corrupt important data and cause a variety of products to shut down entirely,” Horn said.
Many old computers recognize dates in two-digit formats - “97” would represent 1997 - will run awry after the stroke of midnight in the year 2000 if not repaired, unable to distinguish the year 2000 from 1900. The Office of Management and Budget estimates it will cost $2.3 billion to avert widespread government computer crashes from what’s being called the ‘millennium crisis.”
Horn and Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., pointed out the problem also can plague programmed “read only memory” microchips buried in VCRs, microwaves, fax machines and other devices that aren’t programmed to recognize the year 2000. Horn, chairman of a House subcommittee on government management and technology, said he plans to alert federal agencies about the issue in an effort to build public pressure and awareness.
Technology experts agree the problem is a real concern, and agree with Horn and Davis that it’s difficult to determine the scope of the year 2000 issue since some microchips may be programmed properly while others are not.