Don't let it bug you...

DON'T PANIC. The "Y2K bug" is almost certainly not out to get you, unless you use an old computer program to do your accounts or can't remember where to go for a drink without an antique personal-organiser or diary program.

If you don't believe a mere journalist, listen to computer expert and web designer Phil Wilkins: "Y2K bugs generally involve arithmetic based on dates, which an accounting package will be doing all the time... Of course I'm just jealous of the enormous piles of dosh that Y2K has generated for less scrupulous IT con(artists)sultants."

None of your standard journalistic tools - word-processing, processing images, handling email, browsing the Web - have any interest in the date. "Arithmetic on dates" refers to what a computer program does when it needs to deal with "tomorrow" (today + 1) or "thirty-day-old invoice".

So, if your computer wakes up with your hangover on 6 January under the impression that it's 6 March 1980, what harm will it do? None - except perhaps that, if you have 20-year-old files on your disk, new files will be listed among them when you sort by date. Big deal.

If your working life depends on a special program for doing accounts or keeping appointments, then do check with its manufacturer that it handles dates properly. Otherwise, all you will need to do is to re-set the date in your computer's clock the first time you use it in January. See www.gn.apc.org/media/y2k.html for instructions on three increasingly determined ways of doing this to a Windows machine.

The Freelance, meanwhile, is increasingly tempted to avoid the whole thing by switching to the Islamic calendar. Midwinter in the year 1420 is as good a time to have a party as any...

Nov/Dec 1999
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