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Special Event

Millennium 2000: Millennium Bug Lacks Bite

Aired January 1, 2000 - 11:01 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: A new era in the world's history is under way, and that Y2K bug that threatened to attack computers worldwide is so far not being the pest that it could have been. Still, newspapers around the world are talking about the news event that wasn't.

"The Los Angeles Times" doused the raging fears of Y2K and summed it up with this headline: "Wild to Mild."

On the East Cost of the U.S., "The New York Times" newspaper didn't mention the millennium bug in its banner headline at all. Instead, the paper talked about minor computer problems further down on the front page.

Elsewhere, the lack of Y2K problems were evident from where the story was placed. "The Times" of London didn't talk about computer problems in its banner headline. Newspapers in Kuwait and Singapore also downplayed the significance of any computer glitches.

For more now on what happened, or what really didn't happen, globally, we're joined now by CNN technology correspondent Rick Lockridge.

He's at the Y2K Cooperation Center in Washington, where, Rick, I think it was just about the quietest place to spend New Year's.

RICK LOCKRIDGE, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: And still is, Daryn.

And here you're looking at the Web site sponsored by the United Nations and charged with keeping track of everything that did -- or, as you put it, didn't happen worldwide. You see an awful lot of rows of green boxes here, and that's good. These boxes would have turned yellow or red had there been any serious problems.

But the point of showing you this is not only to show you how well things went but also to show you how many of the world's countries participated in this voluntary monitoring event, about 120 of 170 countries. And experts say that bodes well for future emergencies.

Now even though the picture looks good at this point, experts caution that we won't really know if we're out of the woods until the world goes back to work on Monday. And in a briefing delivered just a few minutes ago, Bruce McConnell, the director of the IY2KCC here explained why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MCCONNELL, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL Y2K COOPERATION CENTER: A number of our countries have told us that there are a great number of systems which have not been tested in a live environment. In Chile, for example, they estimate that about two-thirds of the computers were not operating in a live environment in the business arena over the weekend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOCKRIDGE: Now that it appears that the world will not suffer any real, serious consequences as a result of the millennium bug, some are starting to question whether we needed to spend half a trillion dollars worldwide to address this issue. In the U.S. alone, government and private industry spent $360 per person. In Australia it was $320 a person. And so some are starting to wonder whether it was worth spending all that money. But McConnell and others say, yes, we had to do it. We couldn't be sure otherwise. And at least we got a pretty good computer upgrade out of the deal -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Hard to prove a negative. Rick, what about the significance of February 29th, Leap Year coming up in 2000?

LOCKRIDGE: McConnell was asked that question directly at the briefing just moments ago, and he said that he would say that February 29 is likely to come and go with even fewer incidents than we saw on the New Year's Eve rollover, Daryn.

KAGAN: And the significance, for people who hadn't heard, isn't there a belief that some computer programs didn't recognize February 29, 2000, as a Leap Year?

LOCKRIDGE: The problem was the programmers. They thought that because most years ending in two zeros are not Leap Years -- in fact, that only happens once every 400 years, and it didn't happen in 1900 -- that programmers neglected to see that sometimes there is a Leap Year that ends in '00. And because of that, they made programming errors that would have led to problems on February 29th, the Leap day in this year. But McConnell says he doesn't think that that's likely to cause many problems after all.

KAGAN: Rick Lockridge at the very quiet, non-eventful Y2K center in Washington, thank you.

JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the transition into the new millennium is going smoothly for U.S. power officials, as well. Utility officials say they've encountered only a few small problems throughout the nation's power grid.

CNN's Brian Cabell has details of that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Utility officials had predicted that problems with the nation's power grid would be only minor with the changeover to the year 2000. It now appears they were correct, although there were at least five utilities reporting timing problems.

PHIL HARRIS, CEO, PJM: Some clocks just jumped and printed out a wrong date, that sort of thing. So then they reset their clock and everything went back fine.

CABELL: At least three nuclear power plants in the U.S. reported problems, but they apparently had nothing to do with Y2K. At the Limerick plant in Pennsylvania, a transformer broke, shutting down the plant. At Plant Vogtle in Georgia, a faulty heating element forced a temporary shutdown. But after repairs, the plant powered up again. And at the Catawba plant in North Carolina, a computer glitch caused problems, but officials say it was not related to Y2K.

The nations's 3,200 electric utilities spent $2.5 billion over the last few years trying to work out the Y2K bugs, and a nationwide drill in September convinced officials they were ready for the new century.

Brian Cabell, CNN, Valley Gorge, Pennsylvania.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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