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Commission hopes to fix 'Y2K' problem

April 02, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Computers are not as smart as some might think when it comes to solving the problem Franklin County Commissioner Cheryl Plummer referred to as "Y2K."

That's the year 2000 problem, she explained Wednesday. Governments and businesses depend on computers to process ever-increasing loads of information, but many computers will be scratching their electronic brains after Dec. 31, 1999.

The County Commissioners Office received three proposals Tuesday from computer consultants to evaluate the problem in the county's computer systems, according to Commissioner Robert L. Thomas. He said the options range in cost from $5,000 to $10,000 and will be evaluated before a contract is awarded later this month.

The problem is many computer systems were not programmed to recognize the change from one century to another. The fear is that when 2000 arrives, the computers will roll over from 1999 to 1900.

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"It's like the cartoon in the newspaper where the man runs his computer ahead to the year 2000 and it turns into an Underwood typewriter," Plummer said.

While that won't happen, recycling the 20th century could cause systems to fail and wipe out computer memories, Thomas said.

"We have to make sure all our computers, hardware and software, are year 2000-compliant," Plummer said.

"It's not just our computers, it's our vendors' computers as well - people you order forms and checks from, people who handle your investments," Plummer said.

Another example Thomas cited was the county's human service agencies. He said a Mechanicsburg, Pa., company handles data processing for those agencies.

Thomas said Lt. Gov. Mark Schweiker spoke on the issue at last week's convention of county commissioners.

"He said counties that aren't doing something about this today - not next year - are bordering on being irresponsible," Thomas said.

While every county computer probably would not fail in 2000, Plummer said there's no way to know until each one is checked.

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