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Time Bomb

Computers everywhere are on a crash course to the year 2000. What are you planning to do about it?

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This story appears in the June 1998 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

If you think the so-called millennium bug won't affect your business come January 1, 2000, you'd better think again. J. David Stewart, publisher of The Stewart Report financial newsletter, warns, "It is impossible to overstate the enormity of the implications because computers control every facet of life and there is so much interconnectivity between businesses, government agencies and the global economy."

Because programmers in the early days wanted to save precious, expensive hard-drive space, they included only the last two digits of years, believing that long before the end of the millennium, computers would change to some new type of dating system. As a result, at the turn of the century, computers that have not been fixed will think it's 1900. That will cause mainframe computer systems to fail or spew out inaccurate information--everything from incorrect mortgage statements to phone bills that show calls lasting 100 years. Even computers that have been corrected could go haywire if they interact with computers that are not date-ready. With an astonishing number of computer operations date-connected, major disruptions are inevitable--and there simply isn't enough time left to correct all the problems, say Stewart and other experts.

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