For the week of December 2 thru December 8, 1998  

Sun Valley launches effort to fight the ‘millennium bug’

Express Staff Writer

As the countdown to the turn of the century continues, the city of Sun Valley is trying to ensure that the projected year 2000 computer complications will not harm its city computers and the safety of its residents.

"The potential for trouble is enormous," said city administrator Robert Van Nort of the compute glitch that may be triggered when the date turns to zeros. "We have placed a high priority on ensuring that public health and safety are not compromised."

Sun Valley officials have developed a plan to assess the extent to which its computer systems will be affected by the "millennium bug" on New Year’s Eve 2000, and will attempt to fix those that are susceptible.

Van Nort added that Sun Valley must also make sure the city and businesses within the city are not affected by computer breakdowns of suppliers of goods and services. Each Y2K computer glitch could set off a chain of reactions that could cause an interruption in city operations, he said.

Miles Browne, manager of the Information Technology Resource Management Council project team in Boise, has been heading up state-level efforts to address the Y2K problem.

He explained that older computers had limited, more cost-effective memories that employed two-digit dates to save on costly computer memory. When the century turns, the two-digit date-bearing computer will, in essence, try to subtract from zero creating a negative, impossible date, he said.

"Also," Browne said, "nobody anticipated that programs written 10 years ago would still be in use today."

On a state level, four years and $16- to $19-million have been spent looking into the potential problems, Browne said.

"If a disaster should occur, we are ready for it," he said. "If you prepare for it, you can take the sting out of it."

Browne also explained that integrated computer chips may pose a problem. Currently, there are 20 to 30 billion integrated chips in the world. Four to nine percent of them employ a date function and only some of those may have a problem, he said.

"The problem is," Browne said, "we don’t know where they are."

Integrated chips are used in many electronic devices including telephones, clocks, thermostats and security systems.


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