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Date Fate: All Nines Are Fine

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 10, 1999; Page E3

Computers around the world turned in a perfect 10 performance yesterday despite fears the 9/9/99 date might cause some systems to crash.

No significant date-related glitches were reported anywhere in the world. International organizations, businesses and government agencies conducted extensive monitoring to guard against trouble.

Many older computer systems have used the code "9999" to indicate that a program had finished operations and should shut down. Some people had feared that yesterday's date could trigger such a failure.

But technology experts said the 9/9/99 fears did not amount to much because most computer systems represented the day as 09/09/99 or 090999.

"We haven't seen any problems," said Bonnie Cohen, the undersecretary for management at the State Department, which received reports from 167 embassies and consulates about the "nines" issue. [Related story on Federal Page.]

Technology experts cautioned against interpreting yesterday's glitch-free performance as a sign that the year 2000 computer problem will be similarly uneventful. The 9/9/99 glitch was more of a myth, they said, while experts generally agree that many systems will fail if they are not reprogrammed to understand that the year "00" means 2000, not 1900.

Separately, the North America Electric Reliability Council, an electric-power industry group, conducted broad Y2K tests yesterday and Wednesday with more than 400 utilities around the country. The group said participating utilities reported no Y2K problems.

The most noticeable impact from the 9/9/99 date might have been for lottery players. The Virginia Lottery said it sold out the number 9-9-9-9 for its Pick Four drawings yesterday and today. In Illinois, so many people bet on 9-9-9-9 in the state lottery that officials suspended betting on those numbers to avoid exceeding the maximum payout liability.

Staff writer William Claiborne in Chicago contributed to this report.

© 1999 The Washington Post Company

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