June 1999 Bulletin

Millennium bug may be lurking at home

Simple tests will detect Y2K problem in your personal computer

By Howard Mevis

You have probably heard or read about the millennium or Y2K bug. Computers with the millennium bug are not able to recognize dates beyond 1999. So, when the clock passes midnight, December 31, 1999 the internal date and clock in your computer's "brain" may roll over to January 1, 1900. While you or your practice administrator may be focusing on resolving Y2K issues at your practice, someone needs to check out your home, personal computer, too. So, here's a quick prescription for evaluating your personal computer system.

Hardware issues

If you purchased your computer prior to 1998, you have a higher likelihood of Y2K problems with your computer's basic input/output system (BIOS). The BIOS is a software system that supplies the date and time information to your operating system and software. Here is a procedure to test your system.

  1. Back up all important data files to floppy disk or other media, print out your most important files, and close down all software.
  2. Reset the internal date and clock (Find the Icon in the Windows Control Panel) to December 31, 1999 and 11:57:00 p.m.
  3. Turn off your computer and wait 5 minutes.
  4. Start your computer and check to see if the date and time display are accurate (It should read January 1, 2000 and 12:02 a.m.)
  5. Repeat the procedure by setting the date to January 2, 2000 and reboot your computer.
  6. Check the date and time display.

If the incorrect date and time are displayed, you will need to replace your BIOS. Call your computer's manufacturer to inquire about a BIOS upgrade. There may be a charge for new BIOS. If you need to install new BIOS get help from a computer professional. If BIOS are incorrectly installed, your computer will not boot up.

As an alternative to a 'reset test,' visit your local computer store for software that checks your system. Programs are available for about $50 and some include features that will update your computer's BIOS if the software is not Y2K compatible. Or, look for shareware tools on the Internet. I found a program at www.rightime.com.

If you own a Mac, stop reading this article. Your system is good to 2040, but you may want to visit the Apple web site (www.apple.com) for more information.

Operating systems

If you are running Windows 98, your system is likely to be Y2K compliant. However, take a moment to check with your computer manufacturer. Give them a call. It may be faster than running a system check. For individuals running Windows 95 or Windows 3.11, you are likely to experience problems with your software programs. The fix is straightforward.

  1. Open the Windows Control Panel
  2. Select Regional Settings
  3. Select Date
  4. Change the 'Short Date' line to mm-dd-yyyy.
  5. Reboot your computer

If you are running DOS as your primary operating system, get help.

Software programs

The most significant problem you face with software will be in spreadsheet or database program files where the "date field" has been established for two-digit rather than four-digit years. You will need to recreate the fields in these files to display four digits. Then, save the files under the same file name.

It may be advisable to check with the software company for each program you use. Call the company's customer service line or send an email by visiting the company's web site.

The bottom line. Take a moment to follow this prescription. Don't put it off.

Howard Mevis is director of the Academy's department of electronic media, evaluation and course operations.

Computer Link welcomes suggestions about future topics for the column and questions about the use of computers in orthopaedic practice. Send your suggestions to the Bulletin at AAOS, 6300 N. River Rd., Rosemont, Ill. 60018.


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