CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Tech Industry

Some fear Y2K problems with leap year

Although the widespread technological problems due to the Year 2000 computer bug has so far failed to materialize, many in the computer industry have already appointed a new bogeyman: the Year 2000 leap year problem.

Although the widespread technological problems due to the Year 2000 computer bug has so far failed to materialize, many in the computer industry have already appointed a new bogeyman: the Year 2000 leap year problem.

The fear among some corporate computer managers and consultants is that Feb. 29, 2000, may cause problems for computers that don't recognize 2000 as a leap year, so systems could erroneously interprete that day for March 1.

"This shouldn't really be a concern," said Kazim Isfahani, an analyst with the Giga Information Group. "Any programmer worth his salt should have known about this and prepared for it. If companies prepared for the Year 2000 computer problem they would have most likely prepared for this."

Feb. 29 is a one-day-in-400-year event this year. The problem stems from our calendar, said analysts. The 365-day calendar does not exactly match the earth's cycle around the sun, so an extra day in February every four years brings it roughly into step again. However, Y2K: The cost of fear leap days are normally skipped in years ending in "00." The rule is that all years divisible by four are leap years, except those divisible by 100--unless they are also divisible by 400. That makes 2000 a leap year, but not 2100, for instance.

But following the non-event on New Year's Eve, many in the information technology community consider the leap year problem an attempt by some who were let down by the lack-luster Y2K event thus far to keep the issue alive.

Other experts say that if the leap year problem doesn't crash systems, Oct. 10, 2000, is the first eight digit number of the new millennium and might somehow unhinge our computers.

But Dale Vecchio, an analyst at Gartner Group, said a flurry of other warnings last year turned out to be duds.

April 9, 1999--the 99th day of the year--was supposed to cause some computer systems to fail. Sept. 9, 1999, which could be represented as 9-9-99, was also supposed to cause some system malfunctions. In theory this string of nines was a threat to computers because nines were often used by programmers to instruct a computer to shut down or prepare for maintenance.

Vecchio said Jan. 1, 1999, was a danger because many contracts, insurance policies and loans would reach ahead one year and trigger the millennium bug.

When all is said and done, the world will have spent up to $600 billion on readying computer systems for the computer problem. And so far the efforts seem to be paying off.

"Let's point to any of the earlier expected date-related problems. Nothing happened," said Vecchio. "The horse is dead. Lets move on. The IT industry did a good job in preparing for Y2K. It's paid off. Granted it's still early, but lets not pick every unique date and expect failure."

Giga analyst Isfahani agreed.

"Anyone who says it is going to be a problem is looking to extend the Y2K problem," he said.