The Johns Hopkins Gazette: January 4, 1999
Jan. 4, 1999
VOL. 28, NO. 16


JHMCIS Gets Ready to Attack Y2K Bug

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

The word is out about the year 2000 computer glitch and the horrors it may bring, but the officials at Johns Hopkins Medicine Center for Information Systems want to hammer it home.

Beginning next week, JHMCIS will host at each of the medical institutions a fair that aims to raise awareness about the computer bug that could potentially cause computers and other electronic devices to wake up with one major hangover come Jan. 1, 2000.

The event, which will run from Jan. 11 to 15 and 19 to 21, will feature tables at which the information services staff will hand out Y2K literature and answer questions people have about what the year 2000 means to their computers. The staff will also hand out souvenirs such as a flashlight that reads "Don't be in the dark in 2000."

Susanne Wilson, project leader for the JHMCIS Y2K team, says that, although people have known about the glitch for years, with 2000 fast approaching it's important to keep getting the message out.

"We want to reiterate to everybody that it's coming. Everyone procrastinates, but people can't wait on this too long," Wilson says. "The fair is for anyone with any sort of interest or curiosity about the year 2000 issue. Our intent is to help. We can't save the world, but we can help people prepare for this."

The fair will last eight days, Wilson says, so that JHMCIS can "touch base with everyone in the Hopkins Medicine family."

The glitch originates from the practice of programming computers and microprocessors to assume that the first two digits of the year are 1 and 9 and to recognize only the last two digits. If not corrected, computers will read 00 as a lower number than 99, a glitch that can cause systems to malfunction or alter existing records of dates and times.

Fixing the problem in large mainframe computers means examining every line of code so that it recognizes 00 as the year 2000. In PCs the problem can be corrected by updating to Y2K compliant software and hardware or by installing software programs that fix the date-change flaw.

At Hopkins an ad hoc Y2K committee was formed to ensure that all university institutions would be Y2K compliant by Dec. 31, 1998. With systems now for the most part compliant, Wilson says that 1999 will be spent testing the systems and checking daily with software and hardware vendors so that those companies' new compliancy enhancements can be implemented immediately.

Wilson adds that even with all the industry preparedness, no one knows for sure what will happen come the first day of 2000.

For time and locations of the Y2K Fair, visit the JHMCIS Y2K Web site at