Japan, New Zealand Report Leap Day Trouble

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Japan, New Zealand Report Leap Day Trouble

11:52 p.m. ET (0452 GMT) February 28, 2000 By Anick Jesdanun On a day without rain, Japanese computers reported double-digit rainfall Tuesday as Leap Day threw off calendars at more than three dozen ground weather monitoring stations. Elsewhere in Japan, six meteorological observatories and seismographs set up at 20 sites also confused Feb. 29 for March 1. Other Y2K-like glitches gave New Zealand merchants trouble verifying transactions.

Bruce McConnell, who heads a United Nations-World Bank monitoring group for Y2K, dismissed the problems as minor.

"I would conclude that, as we predicted, there will not be any significant disruptions, and the world will barely notice Leap Day," he said from Washington late Monday.

The rainfall glitch was blamed on computers in southwestern Japan that used old software, said Ippei Eguchi, spokesman for Japan's Meteorological Agency. The error was discovered at 43 of the agency's 1,300 ground weather monitoring devices across Japan.

The glitch came a day after computers at six observatories in Tokyo and other cities failed to correctly recognize Feb. 29.

Overall, computer consultants expected a quiet transition into March, despite warnings that computers might treat Feb. 29 as March 1.

"This is sort of closure on the Year 2000 efforts, like the final frontier here," said Dale Vecchio, research director in St. Louis at technology consultant Gartner Group.

Computers have had difficulties in leap years before. Four years ago, for instance, Arizona Lottery players could not buy tickets because its computer failed to understand Leap Day.

This year is more troublesome because it is an exception to an exception. Normally, years that end in "00" are not leap years, but 2000 is because it is divisible by 400.

But many of the problems were caught as Y2K experts tackled the larger Y2K risk  the use of two digits to represent a year, a glitch that could have thrown off computers that run the power grid, air traffic systems and traffic lights.

Sony Corp. said older video cameras and word processors may fail to recognize Feb. 29, while Microsoft Excel 2000 users might have problems computing financial bonds if they failed to get an update.

Government and business leaders in the United States were increasingly confident as Tuesday arrived around the world.

"We've seen absolutely no impact on telecommunications on the far side of the globe, and we expect none here," said Joseph Tumolo, director of Bell Atlantic's business continuity planning.

For all practical purposes, this week marks the end of formal Y2K monitoring, with responsibilities shifting to normal maintenance teams. The Senate's Y2K advisory committee planned to release a wrapup report Tuesday and disband.

In the report, obtained by The Associated Press, the committee identified more than 250 Y2K glitches in some 75 countries. It expects "continued reports of minor nuisances throughout 2000, but no major problems."

Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, the committee's chairman, defended the estimated $100 billion the nation spent to deal with Y2K flaws  which caused none of the widespread disruptions feared.

"Had we not as a nation focused on this issue and come up to deal with it," Bennett said in a Senate speech, "we would have had significant problems."


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), February 29, 2000

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