At midnight on 31 January 1999, millions of computers all over the world will click over to the wrong new year - 1900 rather than 2000. This error is due to programming conventions established in the 1960s and 1970s when computers had much less memory than they do today, and carrying a four- digit year took up too much capacity.
The consultancy Corporation 2000 warned this week that despite being better prepared than most cities, New York, the commercial capital of the US, will be hit badly by the bug. The implications are serious: the banking system, tax and welfare offices, the police and New York's social services could all face catastrophe if the problem is not dealt with quickly. State Governor George Pataki has ordered all technology initiatives to be concentrated on defusing the Millennium Bomb.