Y2k Problem Will Affect Most Pc Users

Y2k Problem Will Affect Most Pc Users

The majority of PC owners and users, unless they take some action during 1999, will soon find that their PCs are part of the Y2K problem.

This is because the majority of PCs still in use cannot accommodate the Y2K changeover on January 1, 2000, and were manufactured prior to the end of 1997. … Most PCs manufactured -after- 1997 are Y2K-compliant.

The culprit is the PC BIOS chip and the real time clock (RTC).

To check out if your own PC is Y2K compliant, just reset the clock to five minutes before midnight for December 31, 1999. – Then turn it off. – Turn it back on about 10 minutes later. — You may be very surprised at the results! … You may get a year anywhere from 1980 to 2003 or something else. … Or – you might get lucky and have a Y2K compliant PC!

Not to worry though – both inexpensive hardware and software solutions are at hand, with more coming – despite the many “Doomsday” Y2K predictions from would-be suppliers of “testing” and “solutions” products. … Incredibly, some of these “Y2K Doomsday” oracles are even advocating collecting guns and food supplies (plus a contribution to their favorite TV religious channel). – Give us a break!

On “power-up”, when you first turn on your PC, most units set the clock to that of the PC’s RTC (real time clock) chip. Whenever DOS and Windows-based applications require a time and date, a system call is passed to the BIOS to return this information from the RTC. Since the non-Y2K compliant RTCs only track years and not centuries, the BIOS (non-compliant BIOS chips exist as well) assumes that the year 00 is either 1900 or 1980.

Almost everyone is aware that the Y2K problem began when computer systems had very limited memory and program space was at a premium. Thus, -two- digits were assigned for the year to save space. … And that was even before the advent of the PC.

Large computer systems and networks, most of which are customized, have unique Y2K problems in both hardware and software, and every single line of that customized software has to be searched for Y2K compliancy. … Not an easy task! In addition, the original programmers who wrote the software or designed the original system are either retired or dead, so this is like a search party looking for dead bodies, in a manner of speaking.

But computers in general, including PCs, are dumb machines that are easily fooled with new software. Y2K “fixes” may include a combination of -both- hardware -and- software.

The company that manufactured your BIOS chip is usually identified each time you boot-up or turn on your PC. — This should be your first resource for fixing the BIOS chip, assuming that the company is still in business.

The “fix” should include all versions of operating systems usually present on an IBM PC-compatible unit including: DOS, OS/2, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows NT 5.0 or greater.

Many BIOS manufacturers are now shipping BIOS patches and bypass products. Adding a patch card is a quick and simple process that does not require any in-depth knowledge of PCs. But if an application uses the RTC for the date, the patch is not used. Therefore if the RTC itself is not Y2K compliant, a patch will -not- correct the problem.

Another Y2K solution involves re-installing the BIOS chip. (This could be a software or hardware issue.) Some BIOS chips can be updated by running a program to update the chip, but on some PCs the BIOS chip itself must be replaced. Unfortunately, on many PCs the BIOS chip is -soldered- to the motherboard (so forget that).

If the RTC chip on a PC only knows the last two digits of the year and does not keep track of the century, it will need to be replaced. If the RTC is giving the BIOS bad date information, then it doesn’t matter if the BIOS is Y2K compliant or not. Most Y2K tests include a RTC test. … And nearly all RTC chips are soldered onto the motherboard.

If you own a low-end PC that is pretty much soldered throughout, and your applications are time/date sensitive, then it makes sense to junk it, and go out and buy a new PC. (Even trying to install a new modem on these clunkers is impossible.)

American Megatrends, Inc. [http://www.ami.com] is one of the BIOS manufacturers that is offering a BIOS upgrade product. Their “Year 2000 BIOS Enabler” is an ISA-based add-on board that ensures that system requests to the BIOS return the correct information when DOS and Windows-based applications require the date and/or time. More information on the AMI2000 product is available at AMI’s Web site [http://www.ami.com/y2k], and it may be the correct approach for many PC users.

It is also just as highly important for users to upgrade specific software, such as accounting and spreadsheet programs to make sure they are using Y2K compliant applications. — BIOS and RTC fixes won’t help program flaws. — Most popular applications have Y2K upgrades available.

Other products, such as software fix programs are now also showing up abundantly in the marketplace, … but make -very- sure that you know what the product will do … and can’t do!

Lastly, if you’re not running any date or time sensitive programs, you can just boot up your PC and set the date every time. (Most PCs will do this.) … Or just leave the PC running at 1999 (the PC doesn’t know the difference).

Best of all, most PCs that need fixing to be Y2K compliant will not require any expensive repairs or add-ons, but each unit (not network) will have to be fixed individually.

… Worry more that your business suppliers and/or employers have got their bigger systems fixed in time so that you get paid on time! [RSH]

COPYRIGHT 1999 Information Intelligence, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group