A survey sponsored by four federal agencies found that a quarter of the people polled said they had received information on the year 2000 computer glitch from their banks or other financial institutions. Three-quarters, though, believed that their bank would "definitely" or "probably" solve the Y2K problem before year's end.

The survey of 2,700 American adults was conducted during February and March by the Gallup Organization on behalf of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve Board and the Office of Thrift Supervision.

The survey respondents were about evenly divided on their level of Y2K worry: 51 percent said they were "very" or "somewhat" concerned and 49 percent reported they were "not too" or "not at all" concerned.

More than half said they "definitely will" react to Y2K by confirming their bank balances and keeping better track of their transactions. When asked if they would withdraw some extra cash, 26 percent said yes and 36 percent said they "probably will," the survey found.

A memo prepared for financial industry executives by the federal regulators said the poll findings underscore the need to educate bank customers on Y2K, since "the more knowledgeable respondents were more likely to be planning to take prudent steps."

Interviews with bank customers found "that what mattered most to their sense of confidence was specific information about their bank's Y2K status--statements that systems had been fixed and tested, rather than general assertions that 'the government and industry are making great efforts,' " the memo said.

Dishing Out the Prefab Meals

The Y2K bug looks pretty tasty to Crown Point Ltd. in Mullins, S.C.

The company sells MREs--such as those legendary packaged "meals ready to eat" prepared for combat troops--and Y2K has boosted demand, company president Dave Kuntarich said.

"About 10 months ago, we began hearing of the Y2K concerns of many of the people who were calling in here to our offices and retailers; then it began picking up in frequency," Kuntarich said.

At the end of last year, Crown Point sold between 8,000 and 9,000 cases of MREs a month. That jumped to 17,000 in January, then to 25,000 in February and soared to 42,000 in March, he said.

Demand has dropped off since, but Kuntarich expects Y2K purchases to pick up again in September. "Some of these people are buying pallets of 48 cases," he said. Many buy enough MREs to feed their families for periods ranging from two weeks to three months, he said.

Prices for a case of MREs range from $50 to $70, Kuntarich said. A typical meal package includes an entree, side dish, desert, crackers with a spread, coffee, a beverage, spoon and napkins.

Crown Point serves as the commercial arm of a larger corporation that serves as a MRE contractor for the Defense Department. But its civilian MRE buyers get the same heavy aluminum package provided to combat troops.

Expert Pulls the Plug

Ed Yourdon, the software expert who attracted considerable attention last year when he moved from New York City to New Mexico because of his Y2K fears, has posted a "Sayonara, Y2K" essay on his Web site. "The time has come for me to say goodbye to Y2K," he wrote.

After writing two books on Y2K and appearing at hundreds of forums on the computer glitch, Yourdon explained that he thinks he has "done everything I can do to raise the alarm about Y2K."

His decision to turn his attention elsewhere has not changed his perspective, he added. "At a 'macro' level, I still have a pessimistic outlook about the outcome of Y2K."

Suits in Dispute

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) estimates that from 65 to 80 lawsuits related to Y2K have been filed and fears the nation's courts will face a "tidal wave of litigation" next year because of electronic disruptions caused when many software programs using two-digit date fields read "00" not as 2000 but as 1900.

McCain, joined by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), is sponsoring legislation, scheduled for debate in the Senate today, that would limit class action lawsuits and punitive damages in the event Y2K failures prevent companies from fulfilling their contracts and providing required services or supplies.

But there appears to be no precise accounting of how many class action suits have been filed. Robert Holleyman, president of the Business Software Alliance, recently said he knew of only two. Congressional aides claim about a third of the 80 suits filed are believed to be class actions.

Only one case has been certified as a national class action, however. In May, Sage Software Inc. of California agreed to the certification, which covers purchasers of an accounting software program sold from 1990 through February 1998.

Versions of the software cannot process dates after Dec. 31, according to the law firms that brought the suit. Sage Software general counsel Matthew Cavanaugh said the company would not comment on matters under litigation.