Computers around Western New York kept on working Thursday despite concerns of a date-related glitch, but few experts think things will go quiet as smoothly 113 days from now when the year 2000 begins.
Sept. 9, written as 9/9 /99, had been predicted to cause turmoil with machines running old programs. Programmers sometimes use a string of nines as an instruction that terminates the program.
But instead of system outages, all was quiet Thursday, several local system repair experts said.
"This seems like a non-event," said Byron Ball, president of Base 10 Consulting in Amherst. "I haven't heard of any problems (from computer users.)"
"To be honest, I didn't think Sept. 9 was going to be a real issue," said Albert Broadbent, chairman of the Year 2000 Working Group, a group of Buffalo computer systems supervisors.
M&T Bank, where Broadbent is a vice president, made it through Sept. 9 without a computer hiccup, he said.
Most computers calculate the date with at least six digits, as in 0 9/0 9/9 9 for conventional computer format, systems experts said.
"It (problems) would have to be on an individual basis," said John Zebracki, data processing chief for the City of Buffalo. To encounter a problem, a machine would have to have been programmed to strip the zeros from the conventional date format, he said.
Buffalo's computer systems will complete their conversion from mainframes to newer file servers in October, Zebracki said, bringing them into compliance with Year 2000 precautions.
On Jan. 1, machines that compute the year using a two-digit shorthand will mishandle date-sensitive programs. The disorder, involving a core computing function, is more likely to cause trouble than the Sept. 9 date, computer experts said. However, fears of a technology-induced apocalypse seem to be abating. Respondents to a poll by the National Science Foundation said they were less worried now about the computer glitch than they were six to nine months ago.
At Phillips Bros. Supply in Amherst, a shortage of home electric generators has ended as Y2K buying tapered off and suppliers caught up with demand, president John Phillips said.
"There are still some going to people (because of Y2K fears) but its not what it had been," he said.
Banks, utilities, airlines, local governments and other institutions in Western New York and around the nation have invested heavily in finding and rooting out any Year 2000 computer bugs.
Problems that do crop up on Jan. 1 will likely be isolated to smaller companies and organizations that haven't investigated their vulnerability, said Ball at Base 10 Consulting.
A newer concern focuses on hacker activity and virus attacks timed to coincide with the New Year, Ball said. Internet newsgroups are beginning to carry warnings for system operators to be wary of computer sabotage, he said.