Compaq drops Y2K ad campaign

In an ongoing battle with a British testing firm, Compaq withdraws an advertising campaign that claimed its systems do identify the new century.

3 min read
In an ongoing battle with a British testing firm over whether its products properly recognize the Year 2000, Compaq Computer today confirmed that a controversial ad campaign that claimed its systems do identify the new century has stopped circulating.

However, a Compaq spokesman claims the advertisements "had run their own course," countering what the British testing firm, Prove It 2000, is calling a victory in the ongoing fracas.

The British company, recently 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.

Prove It 2000 filed the complaint after its tests showed that Compaq's PCs do not pass Year 2000 tests for many functions, particularly the workings of the internal, or real-time, clock. If a Compaq machine is left on during the century change, the BIOS rolls over correctly, but the real-time clock does not, the company said after tests.

The British firm then submitted a complaint to the United Kingdom's Advertising Standards Authority, claiming the computer maker was engaged in false advertising because it says its machines are fully prepared for the millennium. Press reports in the United Kingdom said the ASA is still investigating the case and a judgment won't be issued for some time.

Compaq said that it has been cooperating fully with the investigation, submitting technical materials to the agency, defending both its claims that its systems are Y2K compliant and the ad campaigns that disseminate that message.

The PC maker sticks by its machines and the National Software Testing Laboratories standard under which they are tested. However, the British firm, Compaq, and industry analysts have entered into a debate over whether NSTL's definition of compliance goes far enough.

Because software manufacturers, to save space, used only the last two digits to mark the year, at the turn of the century many computers may mistakenly read the year 2000 as a meaningless "00" or 1900. That could cause those computers to malfunction or shut down.

Compaq has all along 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. It stated: "Any applications that bypass the OS and ROM BIOS to obtain date and data directly from the real-time clock may receive an incorrect date"

However, Prove It 2000 said that Compaq has relied upon selective interpretation of statements by NSTL, most notably by suggesting the real-time clock is not important in assessing Year 2000 compliance in a PC.

"The real-time clock is one of the most important and misunderstood issues within the millennium bug arena," Prove It 2000's chief executive Richard Coppel said in a statement. "It affects all PCs and should not be ignored by manufacturers, suppliers, or consumers of PCs."

Coppel went on to say that the NSTL's stance actually backs up his firm's claims. "We strongly argue that the RTC is an issue for Year 2000 compliance and that consumers should be allowed to make up their own mind when buying a PC rather than being misled by erroneous advertising."