Leap day comes with few Y2K glitches

BY SUSAN KIM | WASHINGTON | February 29, 2000

WASHINGTON (Feb. 29, 2000) -- The most surprising thing for many

people over the Leap Year rollover was learning that Leap Year is

not, simply, every four years.

There are other rules. But to understand them takes a lesson in basic

logic in which later rules automatically rule out preceding rules.

The President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion states them clearly:

"Rule 1 (the oft-remembered rule): Years divisible by four are Leap Years.

"Rule 2: Years divisible by 100 are normal years." (This means 2000

is not a Leap Year.)

But, wait, there's Rule 3, which overrules its predecessors: "Years

divisible by 400 are Leap Years."

And Rule 3 -- which hasn't happened since 1600 and won't happen again

until 2400 -- happened this year. Which is why the President's

Council on Year 2000 Conversion reopened Monday night, albeit on an

abbreviated schedule.

"Who says there are no second acts in life?" said John Koskinen, chair.

The Leap Year rollover did not cause the magnitude of alarm that the

Y2K rollover caused. But the President's Council was still paying

attention, because, while most people - including computer

programmers -- are familiar with Rules 1 and 2, they may not be aware

of Rule 3.

And if computers can't recognize the February 29 date, some may malfunction.

It's an echo of Y2K, and the vast majority of Y2K testing

incorporated Leap Year dates. And, as Y2K has resulted in what

Koskinen calls "continued modest glitches," that's what Leap Year

could cause as well.

But really it's a "completely different problem," Koskinen said --

something the world hasn't dealt with since the year 1600.

Among the systems that could experience Leap Year glitches include

payroll systems in which people are paid hourly or weekly.

Japan did suffer from a series of Leap Year-related

computer glitches -- including frozen cash machines --

that were more embarrassing than alarming.

The machines were fixed by Tuesday. Japan's residents

also received the wrong weather report due to a computer

printing erroneous information because of a failure to

recognize Leap Year. Seismic devices also briefly


Hacker attacks are not any more likely to occur over Leap Year than

any other time, Koskinen added. "At this point we don't think there

is any particular unique vulnerability during this rollover time than

any other day."

The rollover happened as quietly as the Y2K rollover. After New

Year's, for a few hours, the date on Web sites of the Naval

Observatory -- and on Disaster News Network -- read 19100.

And four days later some computer menus at the Mennonite Central

Committee still thought it was year 100.

Most of the Y2K glitches were amusing -- an anonymous caller "thought

it was a stitch" that Disaster News Network's date went awry. At

worst, the bugs were exasperating -- the doors on some buildings

across the nation were left open or stuck shut until security systems

were reset for the year 1972 -- which happens to have the same date

pattern as 2000.

Stormweb, a storm information Web site and e-mail bulletin based in

western Washington state, purposely went offline at midnight December

31, because John Dominoski, system operator, thought it "was the

responsible thing to do" in the face of warnings to curb

non-emergency use of the Internet.

"See you on the other side," he wrote in a last e-mail to users --

and was back up with no problems the next day.

At the Methodist Hospitals of Dallas headquarters, public relations

coordinator Melissa Cook, who worked from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on New

Year's Eve, spent more time fielding media inquiries about the "mad

race" to have the first baby of the New Year than she did about Y2K.

But even an "okay-Y2K" has many people making adjustments to their lives.

Ray Mueller, project leader of the AD2K Web site, has been living and

breathing Y2K for months, along with thousands of Internet

entrepreneurs, disaster response specialists, computer experts,

telecommunications employees -- and the list goes on.

After overseeing a Web site that offered both practical tips and

spiritual reflections on the rollover, Mueller said he'll be

"spending time with my family and continuing my work as a video

producer," adding that he now has "a new interest in Internet


The AD2K Web site, an effort of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of

America, will post one more update, stay up for a couple more months,

and then "things will sort of wind down," said Mueller.

People whose professional lives revolved around Y2K will completely

change their focus, and members of the general public who spent time

preparing, mentally and physically, for Y2K will have to adjust as


Whether they followed the government's advice and kept a few day's

worth of food or they stockpiled a year's worth of essentials, people

shouldn't be hard on themselves or think they over-reacted, said


"We all did the very best we could with the information we had," he

said. "Y2K was unprecedented, it was completely unknown territory."

Those who took steps to prepare were in good company, he pointed out.

"The largest corporations had contingency plans going unused."

But that doesn't mean Y2K wasn't real, he added. "Citibank wouldn't

have spent $950 million on a problem that wasn't real."

Besides, people will now be better prepared for any other emergency, he said.

People wondering what to do with unused stockpiles of food, water,

and other items will have an outlet as churches and charities accept

goods for donation to food pantries and shelters, which typically run

low on supplies after the holiday season ends.

What some see as "over-preparation" for Y2K could be have positive

results for those on the receiving end of donated goods. Plus

churches, communities, and the general public "collaborated in new

ways," said Bobb Barnes, Church World Service disaster resource


As for Richard Proudfit, the owner of Future Foods -- which enjoyed a

brief marketing heyday when people purchased its quick-prep, packaged

foods for Y2K -- "we're going to market to health food stores."

Posted Feb. 29, 2000

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