Wondering whether the year 2000 issue is just hype? Wondering how it
will affect your personal computer? Let's separate the public issues
from the personal ones and break it down to how it will affect you, the
owner of a PC.
We've heard some of the stories about "doom and gloom" - not having
electricity, not being able to buy groceries, use the ATM, etc. Well, we
can't control what the banks and government are doing about Y2k, but we
can prepare our own computers. Our focus here is with respect to your
personal computer. There are two issues involved: hardware, separate
from software. Let's first examine the hardware.
Most computers' main boards (motherboards) have two components that
relate to date and time: the real time clock and BIOS chip. In order
for your machine to function properly when the clock strikes midnight on
December 31, 1999, these two parts must be ready to work in the 21st
First, they must be able to accurately handle four-digit years. Second,
they must be able to increment to both the new century and the new year -
19 to 20 & 99 to 00 (rollover). Third, the clock must be able to
differentiate leap years in the 21st century.
The software issue is a bit more complicated in that most people use
several different programs. Each piece of software has a separate issue
where dates are concerned. Calendar programs, schedulers, spreadsheets
with date calculations and financial applications are of obvious
concern. However, all software must be analyzed because all files are
date-stamped when saved or changed.
Software programs must at least accept and recognize four-digit years,
21st century dates and know the leap years. Additionally, any data
containing dates must be analyzed for two digit year references and
Now that we know that it isn't just hype, look closer at how it will
impact you by reading on. Related articles can be found in this issue of
PC Tech Tips.
After addressing the hardware and software issues for Year 2000
compliance, take a good look at your data. Do you have any spreadsheets
containing dates? Do you have any other programs where dates are used,
such as a scheduling or contact management program or a financial
planner where you pull reports, analyze stock performance or track and
How are the dates entered? Are they in two-digit or four-digit year
format (00/00/xx or 00/00/xxxx)? If your software recognizes four-digit
years but the dates are in two-digit years, beware: the software
probably has what's called a pivot date.
Some software programs make an assumption when seeing two-digit year
entries. If the software's pivot date is 2026, it assumes that:
"2/02/26" is February 2, 2026. However, if the entry reads, "02/02/27",
it assumes the date is February 2, 1927.
This pivot date varies with each software program and even between
versions of the same software. In WordPerfect 8, the pivot date is
2050. If you enter a date with a two-digit year in Excel 97, the pivot
date is 2029.
- In a WordPerfect table - "2/2/30" equals February 2, 2030
- In Excel 97 - "2/2/30" equals February 2, 1930
- In Excel 5.0/7.0 - "2/2/24 equals February 2, 1924
- In Excel 97 - "2/2/24" equals Feb 2, 2024
In both programs, however, when using four-digits for the year, no
assumption is required. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that all
dates are entered using four digits for the year (MM/DD/YYYY).
There are several inexpensive utility programs that will check
spreadsheets and databases. You are notified if the program suspects
there may be a problem. Check 2000 PC Deluxe, Norton 2000 Corporate and
Fix 2000 Pro will check your data files. Fix 2000 Pro also claims to
fix certain files as well.
Be cautious when entering dates and know your programs' pivot dates if
you are using two-digits for the year. Take care when opening a file
(created with an older version) using the newer software version.
Additionally, be careful when you receive information or data files from
others. Know the pivot dates for the program and version they are using.
Although you may be careful to enter dates properly, they may not be.