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Special Event

Millennium 2000: Y2K Bug Meek, but Expensive

Aired January 3, 2000 - 0:05 a.m. ET

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: So far, so good, as world financial markets begin switching on their computer systems for the first time in 2000. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Broad of Trade started electronic trading Sunday night without a hitch.

Asian financial markets have opened seamlessly. Hong Kong's benchmark index gained almost 2 percent during its first three hours of Y2K trading. The market in Karachi, Pakistan, opened just a few minutes ago. Frankfurt, Germany, opens in another two and a half hours. The stock market in Tel Aviv, Israel, 30 minutes after that.

U.S. President Clinton's top Y2K adviser says Monday will be an important and significant day for determining whether some of the world's most important business computers will work. While officials warn that there are likely to be some glitches ahead, they also say the money shelled out to exterminate the millennium bug was well spent.

Joining us from the U.S. Y2K center in Washington, CNN's Miles O'Brien. Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, whether it was real, imagined, or overhyped, the Y2K bug was expensive. The U.S. federal government spent nearly $9 billion trying to go through millions of lines of computer code to ensure that everything from nuclear weapons to Social Security checks to locks on prison doors worked as they were supposed to.

Now, according to government estimates, the private sector in the U.S. spent about a hundred billion dollars trying to clean up its computer systems from the Y2K bug. Overseas, the numbers are a little bit harder to pin down, but estimates here are about $200 billion was spent on computer systems from New Zealand to Iceland to eradicate the Y2K bug from them.

Now, given the fact that reporters have spent much of this weekend here, hundreds of them at this Y2K center, with the electronic version of watching paint dry, the question comes up: Is it a bit of overkill? We put that question to Y2K czar John Koskinen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KOSKINEN, PRESIDENT'S COUNCIL ON Y2K: While we've made it look too easy in many ways because it has been the success it has and appears to have been, it is important to put it in the right context as we go forward.

And as I've said on numerous occasions in the past, individual companies didn't spend, in many cases, hundreds of millions of dollars for public relations efforts. They are not susceptible to responding to hype. They actually spent that money because their systems were at risk. It was an urgent management issue that they dealt with, it appears to everyone now, very successfully.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Of course, there's no way to know for sure what might have happened if less had been done, but there is no debating the fact that corporate America and the government has gone through a massive, expensive, somewhat involuntary computer upgrade campaign.

Judy.

WOODRUFF: Miles, when they say there are some glitches ahead, they expect some glitches, what are they likely to be?

O'BRIEN: Most likely, it will be when you go to your dry cleaner tomorrow or you go to the restaurant tomorrow and any small business where they might have taken a wait-and-see attitude about the Y2K glitch -- either they were too busy or didn't have the money to spend on doing any sort of eradication efforts -- and your credit card swipe might not work, those sorts of things. Those things can be fixed easily. They'll be isolated, nothing that you would call -- that would be sweeping or systemic.

WOODRUFF: And as long as people's paychecks aren't affected, we assume they won't complain too much.

O'BRIEN: Yeah.

WOODRUFF: Miles O'Brien, thanks.

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