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How Often Things Break Down - Y2K Defence

Lights go out, computers crash, flights are delayed, baggage is lost, ATM's run out of cash, cellular phone calls won't go through - that's on a normal day. The White House wants you to know that. John Howard reports.

Concerned that any technical failures on January 1 will be blamed on the Year 2000 computer date rollover problem, the White House has released figures showing how often some systems typically break down.

In the increasingly complex world of technology, the above disasters occur individually on any day of the week.

The White House says the information is a precaution to avert public panic at the first sign of a disruption in electricity or another essential service that may coincide with the date rollover but was not caused by the y2k computer glitch.

Some failures may take weeks of study before y2k can be blamed or dismissed as the cause.

"Every day things go wrong, and nobody pays much attention to them, nobody thinks twice about it," says John Koskinen, President Clinton's top y2k adviser. "But any of these things happening on January 1 will immediately be presumed to be the indication of a y2k problem."

Software is already so enormously complex that computers sometimes fail. For example, Microsoft Corp., whose Windows software runs most of the world's personal computers, fields roughly 29,000 phone calls each day from customers using more than 4,000 programs, who ring to complain their PC's are not working right.

Tell me about it. My new Windows 98 keeps throwing up the "blue screen of death" - fatal exception error. Still, with patience I work around it and that's what we're all going to need next year - patience.


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