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Canadians Have Squashed the Y2K Bug - or Have They?

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 21 December 1999 00:00

Canadian businesses and governments rate themselves highly when it comes to preparedness for the Year 2000 Computer Problem, also known as the Y2K or Millennium Bug. Media from Vancouver to Halifax have centred most of their dire predictions of Y2K-related computer collapse outside Canada. Organizations may be ready for the future... are homeowners?

The immediate threat for Canadian homeowners lies on two fronts: computers and chip-embedded equipment in the home and a Y2K panic which may lead homeowners to over-react to the Y2K situation. Canadian Computer consultant Peter de Jager, one of the first to identify the problem, says, "Unless we publicize what has been done, there will be panic in the streets. The self-fulfilling prophecy. We'll be lost not because of a technical issue but because of the social dynamic."

The Y2K problem was created about 30 years ago when computer programmers, faced with expensive and scarce computer memory, started using only the last two digits of dates, so that 1999 become 99 and 2000 will be 00 - just like 1900. Computers that have not been reprogrammed or specially-built to handle the date change beginning January 1, 2000, may work erratically or stop altogether.

Even if you don't have a computer, you may have to battle the Bug. Some of the estimated 50 billion non-Y2K-compliant chips or microprocessors which are embedded in automated equipment and appliances may be in your home.

Y2K Lessons You Don't Want to Learn the Hard Way

  • Make hard copies of everything you will need access to during January 2000, just in case. Also make back-up copies of bank accounts, investment accounts, mortgages, loans and any other ongoing relationship you have that could cost you money or make you money.

  • Review personal investment and retirement plans with financial and legal advisers to be sure those that hold your money have prepared adequately for Y2K.

  • Avoid do-it-yourself hardware replacement. Don't let friends and family tinker or test your equipment unless they will pay for any damage caused. Check out manufacturer websites for details on Y2K compliance and testing.

  • If you own a condominium, review the Y2K compliance activities of the board to ensure elevators, heating and other electronic systems will function properly.

  • Put automatic activities on hold. If your system is set up to date stamp data files and automatically delete them at some point, consider disabling this function. Once you are certain your system is fully compliant, back on it goes.

  • Beware: Apocalyptic Y2K forecasts are breeding grounds for scams, fraud and exaggerated claims.

  • Read the fine print on any guarantees you receive for equipment, software or services. Do not take manufacturer's claims at face value, ask a lot of questions.

  • Many insurance companies won't cover claims due to Y2K because it's not an Act of God nor is it an emergency. Check with your insurers to find out how they will deal with Y2K damage to your home or possessions.

  • Consider early renewal for licenses, insurance policies, leases, credit cards and professional registrations that come due in the first quarter of 2000 if a hitch or delay in renewal could affect usage.

  • Be ready for fake "Y2K crash" claims from companies and individuals who do not want to pay you or to pay on time. Legal recourse may be available if apparently Y2K-compliant equipment fails. Contact the federal Competition Bureau Information Centre at 1-800-348-5358, if you have any problems.

    Don't think the threat will be all over by January 2. The complex nature of this programming defect may lead to problems over the first 6 months of 2000.

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