Information Unlimited: All The Facts You Need To Avoid Heartache - N0 19: THE MILLENNIUM BUG

Will it affect you?

What does it mean?

Most equipment and software contain microprocessors which rely on dates to function correctly. The millennium bug is the term used to describe the potential difficulties that computer and electronic equipment will have in handling the date change on 1 January 2000. The problem originated in the Sixties and Seventies when computer programmers, to save memory space, adopted the practice of referring to years by their last two digits rather than by all four: "98", rather than "1998".

As a consequence, some computers will not be able to tell the difference between the year 2000 and the year 1900, because both figures have 00 as their last two digits. This could mean that some computers and electronic equipment will produce meaningless information or fail at the millennium. Most new products contain chips that do recognise 2000.

What may be affected?

Time is ticking away inside personal computers, mainframes and electronic systems all over the world and, as most areas of modern life are affected by IT, no one knows how great the impact will be, which is why the Government is trying to get everyone to take preventative action.

Electronic equipment such as telephones, fax machines, photocopiers, fire alarms, security systems, medical equipment, air conditioning, heating systems, drainage, water, sewerage and lifts can all contain microprocessors which may be affected by the date change.

Organisations which depend on services such as water, gas and electricity may be affected by failures in their supply chain even if their own internal systems are 2000-compliant.

What you can do

Most problems will occur around the millennium date change. The Government has set up a scheme called Action 2000 to prepare businesses and consumers for the millennium. Call them for further advice on measures to be taken on 0845 6012000. Contact your employer, bank, insurer, GP and anyone else who holds computer records of your affairs and ask them how they will be tackling the problem.

Keep your financial papers in order for 1999.

Keep a record (dates and amounts) of wage payments, direct debits, mortgage repayments and policy renewal dates which you will be able to refer back to if you have a problem in 2000.

If you have a credit card with "00" expiry date, keep all your transaction slips from now on and check them regularly against your statements.

Call your gas and electricity suppliers and ask them what measures they are taking. Keep your utility bills so that you have proof of meter readings, in case there are problems with billing in 2000.

Does insurance cover it?

Policies are designed to cover the unforeseen and the unpredictable - the millennium is foreseeable and predictable, though some of the consequences are not. Speak to your insurance company if you are concerned and check if they have any exclusions, as these may start to appear in 1999. For general advice, call the Association for British Insurers on 0171-600 3333.

Household insurance: it is unlikely that your policy will cover individual items which malfunction. It will be seen as the manufacturer's responsibility to insure that their products are millennium-compliant. However, if your heating broke down and your pipes froze and burst, they would probably meet the cost of repair, because burst pipes could not have been predicted, but it is best to phone them and check.

Travel insurance should be checked closer to 2000 to cover against delays, lost luggage or cancellations.

The "home check!" pack from Action 2000 gives instructions on how to check the internal clock on certain products in your home such as VCRs. By setting the clock to roll from 1999 to 2000 you can see if it recognises the date change.

The Action 2000 website www.bug2000.co.uk. lists the top 100 software packages for personal computers and tells you how they might be affected. If you discover that any products are not year 2000-compatible, get in touch with your retailer.

Further information

The Consumers Association would be interested to know if you have experienced any problems with products or services as a result of the millennium bug. Call 0645 830232 if you have had a problem with a product, or 0645 830234 if you have had a problem with a service.

Compiled by the authors of `Women Unlimited: The Directory for Life' published by Penguin, pounds 9.99

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor