Countdown to bill for pounds 20bn

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Industry may have to pay up to pounds 20bn to reprogram computers with the new date at the turn of the millennium.

The "Millennium Compliance", or "Y2000", problem represented a challenge for small and large businesses alike, said a report by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. A vast number of computers of all kinds, from desk-top PCs to the highest level mainframes, were likely to crash when their internal clocks reached the year 2000.

Most would recognise the date as 1900, with possibly catastrophic results. The report, written by civil servants for the benefit of MPs, said that responses of companies to the threat of the Y2000 problem are mixed, with some failing to recognise the need for action.

"As a rule of thumb, programming costs about pounds 1 per line of code changed," it said. "For a typical large organisation or government department with hundreds of millions of lines of code, costs could be over pounds 100m."