Education

Lesser-Known Glitches Could Cause Problems, Too

February 24, 1999 1 min read
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Oh, and don’t forget about the “9-9-99 computer bug” and the “2-29-2000 leap-year bug.”

Like a car windshield, school computers will be running into more than a dozen “buggy” dates before the end of 2000, according to a new, 70-page guide that has been produced jointly by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council of the Great City Schools in Washington.

As with the more infamous “Y2K” bug, these bugs stem from seemingly innocent decisions made by computer programmers over the past couple of decades.

Sept. 9, 1999, is a problem because programmers often marked the end of a program by typing in “9-9-99.” Computers could get confused when that date comes along next fall, said Robert J. Parlato, the Year 2000 project manager of the New York City school system, where programmers modified some mainframe applications to prevent problems.

They also changed programs so computers would recognize 2000 as a leap year, to prevent date errors on Feb. 29, 2000, Mr. Parlato said.

Some past computer programmers neglected to note that while most years ending in ''00'’ are not leap years, this rule is reversed every four centuries, including in 2000.

Other potentially troublesome dates, according to the guide, include Dec. 31, 1999; March 1, 2000; Oct. 10, 2000; and Dec. 31, 2000.

The guide, “Squashing the Millennium Bug: A Year 2000 Compliance Guide for Elementary/Secondary Schools and School Districts,” is available free from the Education Department by calling (877) 4ED-PUBS .

--Andrew Trotter

A version of this article appeared in the February 24, 1999 edition of Education Week as Lesser-Known Glitches Could Cause Problems, Too

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