An article in Tuesday's Business section erroneously stated that Case Western Reserve University's Web site was affected by a Year 2000 computer glitch that listed the year as 1900. A university spokesman said that the page was a parody posted by staff members and that the school encountered no Y2K problems. (Published 01/08/2000)
Businesses and government agencies around the world reported few Y2K problems with their computers and other electronic devices yesterday, the first workday of the new year, leading to new confidence that the once-feared glitch has largely been conquered.
Financial markets and banks in the United States--perhaps the most technologically dependent sector of the American economy--operated without any significant Y2K incidents yesterday, although firms said they were deluged with telephone calls from customers who wanted to be assured of their account balances, industry and government officials said. The day went so well that many banks began shipping back to the Federal Reserve billions of dollars in extra currency that the central bank had distributed to alleviate any financial panic.
"We're thrilled that it worked, that millions of man-hours and billions of dollars were put to good use," said American Bankers Association spokesman John Hall. "The goal was for nothing to happen."
The Securities Industry Association, which represents 740 investment banks, stock brokerages and mutual fund companies, called the first day of trading "business as usual."
"We're gratified at the smoothness of the transition to date," said SIA Executive Vice President Donald D. Kittell. "It's been even better than we hoped."
After U.S. businesses had closed for the day, the Clinton administration's Y2K czar, John A. Koskinen, for the first time declared victory in the fight to eradicate the date glitch. "We can safely say that . . . the Y2K bug has been squashed," said Koskinen, who called the unprecedented mobilization of labor and money to address the problem "a stunning achievement."
"Across the country, there is a great sense of relief," he said.
Investors were so heartened by the glitch's minor impact that they continued plowing money into computer-related stocks yesterday, sending the tech-laden Nasdaq composite index up 61.84 points, or 1.52 percent, to 4131.15. "We all woke up and the market was still there," exalted T. Rowe Price Associates Inc.'s chief equities trader, Andrew Brooks.
Despite predictions that businesses will now begin to spend money on technology projects they had deferred to address the programming bug, analysts said it was still too early to ascertain the full economic impact of Y2K. Fearful of Y2K disruptions with their suppliers, some businesses stocked up on inventory in the fourth quarter, for instance, leading to predictions that they might scale back orders this quarter. But that phenomenon may have been more muted than originally predicted because of increased confidence in the repair effort, leading to a less pronounced slowdown this quarter, analysts said.
Y2K has not been a complete nonevent, however. Businesses and government agencies have encountered a handful of minor date-related problems, and yesterday officials conveyed additional reports of relatively insignificant Y2K errors.
Vice President Gore's presidential campaign "Internet Town Hall" Web site early yesterday listed the date as "Monday, January 3, 19100," but it was corrected later in the day. Case Western Reserve University's Web page listed the year as 1900, with a note saying that "we are working diligently on the problem." At the Godiva Chocolate Co., a Y2K-related glitch that was undetected on Jan. 1 popped up as the workweek began yesterday and temporarily prevented cash registers in its New York City store from working properly. And the Energy Department reported that a computer system at its nuclear-weapons plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn., was felled by the bug for about three hours, but officials said the failure did not affect the plant's operations or employees.
The Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also encountered a computer glitch that stopped gun dealers from electronically registering for licenses, Koskinen said. The computer shut down shortly after the rollover to the new year, but he said it had not been determined whether it is a Y2K problem.
Koskinen said the minor nature and relative dearth of date-related foul-ups is a positive sign. "What's most important is nobody is noticing them," he said.
And systems that have been affected by the problem largely appear to have been fixed quickly. At the Defense Department, for instance, officials said that a ground station that processes information from spy satellites that was shut down for three hours on New Year's Eve because of a Y2K bug returned to normal operations yesterday.
Koskinen, like other technology specialists, continued to warn that more Y2K problems likely would crop up in the days, weeks and months to come. "We are likely to continue to see glitches pop up here and there . . . but I think they will be localized and transitory and will not pose a threat to the nation's economy," he said.
He warned that Feb. 29 could be the next date to pose a problem because years ending in "00" include a leap day only every fourth century--an anomaly for which computers may not be prepared.
Government officials and technology experts had been particularly concerned that small businesses, which had been slow to deal with the glitch, would encounter significant problems when they opened for business yesterday. But by the end of the day there were few reports of any major difficulties, although specialists said it would take several days to fully ascertain the impact on small companies.
At Attorneys Healthcare Collections Inc. in Prince William County, Executive Vice President Robert Smith said the company "had no problems whatsoever."
"We have a lot of electronic interfaces with our clients and they haven't had a problem either," Smith said.
"There was not a glitch. It was a very nonevent," said Ed Joy, the Manassas division president of AmeriServe Food Distribution Inc. "But anything that goes wrong this year with our computers, we can blame it on Y2K. At least we have something to blame it on."
Staff writers Stephen Barr, Kathleen Day, Ianthe Jeanne Dugan in New York, Ceci Connolly and Amy Joyce contributed to this report.
CAPTION: John Koskinen, the president's Y2K chief, declared the bug "squashed."