Worldwide Y2k Rings In With No Major Glitches Only Problem So Far Is Heavy Phone Use

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 1, 2000

Computers silently switched to 2000 in country after anxious country today, but the dreaded Y2K bug's first bite was barely felt.

Japan reported the failure of a computer linked to radiation monitoring devices at a nuclear power plant, but said it wasn't considered serious enough to shut the facility. In Spain, minor Y2K glitches at two nuclear plants were quickly fixed.

Experts said many Year 2000 computer troubles still might take days or weeks to develop. But as the new year was completing its victory lap around the globe, crossing into the United States without a stumble, the prevailing feeling about Y2K was one of anticlimax.

From time zone to time zone, as computers contended with the date change from 1999 to 2000, the story was the same. Cash machines kept working in New Zealand, the lights stayed on in India, planes landed safely in China, telephones still rang across the Middle East - and everywhere else.

In Russia, much of which still runs on clumsy Soviet-era technology, officials reported no problems at nuclear weapons sites or at any of the country's 29 nuclear reactors. Aging atomic power plants also ran without a hitch in Ukraine, which in 1986 suffered the world's worst nuclear disaster with a meltdown in Chernobyl.

Western Europe and Africa also seemed to sail into 2000 without incident. No problems were seen in Angola, Uganda and Kenya, where the telephone system was said to be functioning as erratically as usual. Italy, one of the worst-prepared countries in the West, also appeared to cross into the new century without any major trouble.

Many countries suffered brief disruptions in phone service, blamed not on Y2K but on the surge of midnight calls by people to family and friends. Cell phone service was slow on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach because of high demand, but no Y2K-related problems were reported in Brazil.

A critical milestone for worldwide air travel passed without incident at midnight Greenwich Mean Time in Britain. GMT, also known as Universal Coordinated Time and "Zulu" time, is the global standard used to track planes as they cross time zones.

The widespread expectation that computers would fail in many nations was based largely on anecdotal information because "we didn't know what technology was there," said Matt Hotle, research director at the technology consulting firm Gartner Group.

Among the scattered Y2K glitches that did crop up, a provincial court in South Korea issued automated summonses to 170 people to appear for trial on Jan. 4, 1900 instead of Jan. 4, 2000.

Elsewhere, ticketing machines on some buses in Australia briefly jammed. Forecasting maps at the French weather service initially displayed the New Year Day date as "01/01/19100."

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration reported momentary problems with printers in transoceanic air traffic control centers in New York, California and Alaska. An electric utility in Wisconsin suffered a Y2K-related glitch when its clocks jumped ahead 35 days, but there was no interruption in power. At least one other unidentified plant experienced a similar problem.

"Literally, you can count the number of Y2K-related calls we've received around the world on one hand," said Don Jones, head of Y2K troubleshooting for Microsoft.

Communications, transport, defense and power systems continued to function normally.

Despite the seemingly smooth transition around the world, experts said it wasn't time yet to totally drop your guard.

"We do expect to see glitches, headaches, hiccups in the systems that support business, some of the accounting and billing systems, so these will create inconveniences next week," Bruce McConnell, director of the International Y2K Cooperation Center, said in Washington.

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