For Release January 5, 1999

Y2K Uproar: Anything to Worry About?

by Chuck Otte, County Extension Agent

I hesitantly bring up the subject of the Year 2000 (Y2K) computer situation. You can pick up any magazine or newspaper, listen to any radio or television broadcast and hear anything from "gloom and doom" to "no problem". The truth lies somewhere between the extremes.

The truth is that no one can accurately say just what exactly will happen. There will be glitches. There will be little hiccups that may be easier to fix after they happen than to try to prevent. There will be some minor inconveniences to people, businesses and agencies that either didn’t think that Y2K would impact them or failed to plan for it. Will the global economy come to a screeching halt? I doubt it. Will the national economies go into recession? I doubt it, but if it does happen it’s going to be caused by human panic not by the actual impact of the Year 2000 rollover.

What then should you do? First of all, don’t start to panic over anything you don’t have control over. It would be prudent to keep all records, receipts, bills, statements, anything that would constitute a paper trail throughout the year. I keep all these kinds of records for several years, but, as my wife is always quick to point out, I’m not normal. Keep these in a safe and organized place until well into the year 2000 just in case somebody’s computer someplace isn’t ready and you have to re-create your information for them.

Informed awareness is the first step. Do not confuse awareness with panic. Talk to your bank or financial institution and see what they are doing about Y2K. From what I’ve been able to tell, all the local banks have been working on their Y2K plans for several months already. Talk with firms that you do business with to see if they are prepared. If they use any electronic equipment and say they don’t have a problem you may want to question them a little harder.

Next take an inventory in your home and business. Make a list of everything that has a computer chip in it or uses a clock/timer function. We all know that computers are at risk, but there are many other items that you may not have thought about. Telephones, answering machines, microwaves, VCR’s, fax machines, postage machines even alarm systems and building environment control systems are some of the equipment that MAY be at risk.

There’s a lot of panic that when January 1, 2000 rolls around a lot of the equipment will stop working. In many cases this isn’t correct. Your VCR will still play and record, but the timer may be confused. Your fax machine may think that it is January 1, 1900 but it will still send and receive faxes, the date stamp simply won’t be right. And there may very well be pieces of equipment that you never even thought about containing chips. Once you’ve assembled a list of equipment you can start contacting manufacturers to see if the equipment has a problem and if so what can or should be done.

Once you know what equipment is affected and how it is affected you can start determining what steps to take to fix the problem. Some things may be impacted but in ways that you don’t use, so a fix may not be necessary. In some cases a whole new piece of equipment may need to be purchased, in others a simple low cost replacement may do the trick and in some cases there may be a free software upgrade or part replacement. What you don’t want to do is start shelling out big bucks to some "expert" who says they can fix everything for X amount of dollars.

Y2K is a real problem, but the potential impacts have probably been blown out of proportion. Walk through these few steps to get yourself started, visit some of the web sites that are out there on Y2K and ask lots of questions. Get started now and you’ll have peace of mind when December 31, 1999 arrives.


Return to Agri-Views Home Page

Return to Ag Home Page