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University readies for Y2K bug

Students need not worry about the ISIS man going on the fritz January 1, 2000. University computing officials say computers around Grounds, including the Integrated Student Information System computers, are ready to handle the Year 2000 problem.

The Y2K problem became a major worry because many computers are programmed to know only the last two digits of a given year.

Therefore, some computers recognize the year 2000 as 1900, and massive complications could arise when the new year begins.

"We are completing a multi-year preparation for the Y2K event," said Dr. Robert Reynolds, interim director of information technology and vice provost for the Health Sciences Center. "We have been concentrating on mission - critical and health and safety issues for the University."

Robert "Chip" German, director for policy and planning in the Office of Information Technology, said University computing experts are making satisfactory progress toward their goal.

"We've pretty much resolved what we think are the biggest issues," German said. "A lot of people have worked extremely hard to reach a position of extreme confidence."

He said University technology experts have concentrated particularly on the Health Sciences Center, but that Facilities Management also has had plenty of work to do.

"Failures in the Health Sciences Center can have real human consequences," he added. "That was a big job, especially because even small computers have to work.

"That work is substantially complete, especially in critical areas," German said.

Martha Stearns, University Y2K Project Coordinator, said the Health Sciences Center was in the final stages of Y2K-preparedness testing.

"We are going to be doing testing from September to November on separate partitions of the mainframe computer," Stearns said. "We've tested everything individually and now we're getting ready to put everything together."

She said her team has tested over 30,000 pieces of equipment in the Center and has found very few gliches that might cause a problem for the University in Y2K.

German said the University also is concentrating on infrastructure issues.

"Facilities Management has been doing very well" fixing computers that control systems like climate control, power supply and elevators, he said.

Since the Y2K team, led by Stearns, has fixed most of the problems it can anticipate, it now is trying to develop other back-up plans, German said.

"We are looking at things that begin to look like a natural disaster - breakdowns in power, communication and transportation," he said.

"Prudence says we should develop contingency plans," he added.

German attributed the University's level of preparedness to forward thinking at the highest levels of administration.

"Leonard Sandridge, the University's executive vice president, has been getting down in the details," he said. "The success we can see derives directly from the attention Sandridge has paid to the problem"