Turning Sausage Back Into The Pig

The Year 2000 Problem in Northfield, Vermont

by Dennis Báthory-Kitsz

Copyright ©1999 by Dennis Báthory-Kitsz

Part 1: How it happened, what Y2K affects, embedded systems
Part 2: Your money, your electricity, your telephones, your television
Part 3: A block of cheese, Vermont independence, elsewhere
Part 4: So you own a computer, what you can do, what next

The Y2K crisis may be a ripple or a tsunami. If you own a home computer, though, you may suddenly feel like the swimming pool has emptied into the living room. If you own a computer, you need to do some homework.

So You Own a Computer...

PC users are more affected than Macintosh users because of a difference that isolates the Mac itself at the hardware level. Nevertheless, any hardware peripherals or software created before mid-1998 may have a problem on either machine, including uninterruptible power supplies, backup systems, and network connections.

     Computer guru Peter de Jager predicted, "On Jan 1st 2000, more than 80,000,000 PCs will think the Berlin Wall is still standing and that Trudeau is still the prime Minister of Canada." These machines will have reset to the PC default date of January 4, 1980.

     The more serious problem in PCs is caused by two factors:

In a PC, an older BIOS doesn't see the century, and on some motherboards the RTC's century indicator was unaccountably used for other purposes (such as the communication port!). Until recently, software for both PC and Macintosh wasn't written with the century in mind, so no matter how good your hardware is, the software can still read year 2000 as '00'. (The tech-minded readers might check out the serious but subtle problem of 'time dilation' -- how even a working motherboard can gain time in the next century.)

     When you've solved your hardware problems solved and eliminated non-compliant software, the last settable date for the Macintosh will be December 31, 2019 and for Windows 95/98 will be December 31, 2099.

     A common understanding in the computer industry is this: If your machine was built before the summer of 1998, it's old, and you need to check it thoroughly.

What can you do?

What can you do if your computer's is "old"? The rule of thumb is ALERT: Anticipate, List, Evaluate, Repair and Test.

What Next?

Prepare. Back up crucial data. Don't work late on December 31. Put away a some canned food, candles, batteries, water, wood, and cash. And don't be disappointed when everything passes by quietly.

     About the title of this series: One computer expert considered fixing the Y2K problem as effective as turning sausage back into a pig. You can try, but what you get isn't very pretty.

     By the way, year 2000 is also a leap year... did I mention the problem with leap years?

The Date Rollover Test

Real-Time Clock Rollover Test

  1. Set the date to 12/31/1999.
  2. Set the time to 11:58 p.m.
  3. Check that the date and time have been set.
  4. Switch off the computer.
  5. Wait five minutes.
  6. Switch the computer back on.
  7. Check the date and time. It should be a few minutes after midnight on 1/1/2000.

Real-Time Clock Year 2000 Set Test

  1. Set the date to 1/1/2000.
  2. Check that the date has been set.
  3. Switch off the computer.
  4. Wait one minute.
  5. Switch the computer back on.
  6. Check the date. It should still be 1/1/2000.

When you're done, don't forget to reset your computer to the correct date and time.

Contact the author