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Compaq: Y2K won't affect PCs

The PC giant confirms that its computers won't recognize dates after January 1, 2000, but says this won't affect performance.

Compaq Computer today confirmed claims by a U.K. firm that makes software fixing the Year 2000 bug that the PC maker's real-time clock inside its machines won't properly recognize dates after January 1, 2000, but insisted that this does not affect the overall performance of its PCs.

Compaq was responding to a statement released yesterday by a British company, Prove It 2000, that it has filed a complaint with the U.K. advertising standards body over claims by the PC maker that its machines are fully prepared for the millennium.

Richard Coppel, chief executive of Prove It 2000, said his company's tests show that Compaq's PCs do not pass Year 2000 tests for many functions, particularly the workings of the internal clock.

"If a Compaq machine is left on during the century change, the BIOS rolls over correctly, but the real-time clock does not," he said.

In a statement released today, Compaq found fault with Prove It 2000's charge that it had not alerted its customers about the issue of the Real Time Clock. "In a major white paper titled 'Preparing for the Year 2000,' released in 1997 and updated in January 1998, Compaq did just that, stating: 'Any applications that bypasses the OS and ROM BIOS to obtain date and data directly from the RTC may receive an incorrect date," the company said.

Coppel sees that as an admission of guilt to some degree and believes that information should be front and center of any ad campaign if the problem isn't fixed.

The clock is "the most important element of a computer's ability to cope with the date change to the year 2000," he added. "Real-time clocks are found in every PC and allow a PC to relate to time- and date-related functions, such as operating software."

However, in its statement, Compaq disagreed. "Applications that obtain data directly from the RTC may exist but, to the extent they do not contain logic to adjust for the actual date, violate basic PC programming principles."

Prove It 2000 targets popular computer companies and tests their products for Year 2000 compliance. Last year it tested machines by IBM, found Y2K noncompliance in a number of functions, and publicized its findings.

"We informed them. They said we were wrong and asked us to do the tests in their labs. We did, and they fixed the problem...Compaq has ignored us," Coppel said.

Coppel said his firm's argument to the Advertisement Standards Authority is that Compaq should "state the facts, mark the box, and leave it up to the customer to decide if they want to buy the machine with a noncompliant real-time clock. While real-time clock failure only affects a certain user or function, how can they assume the product is fully Year 2000 compliant?"

Compaq said it is sticking with its decision, which is backed by independent hardware testing firm NSTL, which also tests hardware made byHewlett-Packard, Dell , and other major computer companies.