Early birds fix the bug

corning writes multiyear contracts for chemicals and other raw materials to smooth out fluctuations in supply and prices. But last summer, when it came time to start entering contracts expiring in 2000, "The system aborted with a programming error" and took several weeks to fix, recalls Jim Scott, technology director of Corning's science and technology unit.

The Hawaiian Electric Utility in Honolulu ran tests on its system to see if it would be affected by the Y2K bug. "Basically, it just stopped working," says systems analyst Wendell Ito. If the problem had gone unaddressed, not only would some customers have potentially lost power, but others could also have gotten their juice at a higher frequency, in which case, "the clocks would go faster, and some things could blow up," Mr. Ito explains.

At an emergency meeting of the International Federation of Airline Controllers last January, air-traffic controllers simulated the 2000 date change. Their screens went blank.

Data courtesy of the Cassandra Project (www.cassandraproject.org)

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