by Michael Kearney
Thursday, September 23, 1999 will leave us with 100 days remaining before the arrival of the Year 2000. I can assure you that those of us who have been wrestling with this problem in recent years are looking forward with eager anticipation to the time when we can wrap up the major tasks of this project and take up the challenges the next century has to offer. However, we're not quite ready to call it a millennium--there's work remaining to be done.
Although we've been at it for years, this still isn't terribly long relative to the lifetime of the problem. We find its precursors in nineteenth century government forms where the year is preprinted with a leading "18" placed there, logically, to reduce the labor and risk of error inherent in repeatedly re-entering it. We might call this a "Year 1900" problem--solved then, presumably, with manual workarounds using pen and ink or by replacing the old forms altogether.
For the last several years, the University has been engaged in a project to perform the twentieth century equivalent of "replacing the forms." It has proven to be a complex and challenging undertaking, belying the conventional notion that all the effects of the Year 2000 problem (failures of computer systems to perform as expected from the use of a two-digit representation of the year) will be felt on or about January 1, 2000--a single giant hurdle to be cleared. The real situation is more complex and, in some ways, more
reassuring than that implied by the single hurdle metaphor. We have, in fact, already cleared dozens of hurdles to bring us where we are now. Among them: modifications of student systems in 1995 to handle the Class of 2000; development and upgrade of our financial systems including FinMIS and Payroll; organization of a University-wide Y2K project in 1997; successful operation through critical 1999 dates such as the beginning the University Fiscal Year 2000 in July; replacement and upgrade of hundreds of systems in Schools and Centers; successful integrated system tests of desktops, networks, and servers running with clocks set ahead to 2000; upgrades to PennNet; and assessment and upgrade of control systems in University facilities.
Most of the University's mission-critical Year 2000 work is now complete, but we cannot be complacent. We must continue to plan for and clear the hurdles--seen and unforeseen--that lie ahead:
If you have questions, please contact the Year 2000 coordinator for your school or center listed in the table at left. You may also refer to the University's Year 2000 Web site at www.upenn. edu/computing/year2000 or send e-mail to email@example.com.
Dr. Kearney is the University's Year 2000 Project Coordinator.
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Almanac, Vol. 46, No. 4, September 21, 1999