Letters to the editor

Widespread fear exists on the issue of real-time clock testing and little was clarified
in the recent article “PC managers seek the real deal on real-time clocks” [GCN, Nov. 23, 1998, Page 48]. Why the confusion?

Some years ago, for performance considerations, PC vendors agreed that the RTC would
not be responsible for updating the CMOS memory-stored century data and that the BIOS
software would carry the burden of the Y2K issue. This agreement was part of the original
PC/AT standard.

Because most PC makers like to follow the PC standard, about 90 percent of RTCs
existing today are not Y2K-compliant by themselves.

Thus, Dell Computer Corp. is not selling faulty RTCs, and Intel Corp. is not producing
faulty RTCs. Many vendors have no intention of putting century functionality in the RTC
anytime soon because it will only duplicate functionality of a Y2K-compliant BIOS.

I note that Dell will provide an RTC driver for systems that require it. Dell sells
Y2K-compliant BIOSes in its computers, and therefore few computers will require it.

Consultant Patrick Simonis is correct when he says that hardware manufacturers could
have fixed this by upgrading the RTC. But, again, a large number of manufacturers chose to
stick with the accepted standard of putting century functionality into the BIOS and made
their BIOS Y2K-compliant.

How does this standard but noncompliant RTC affect you? Only one-tenth of 1 percent of
commercial applications now available retrieve date information directly from the RTC. Any
application that does should be investigated. Some operating systems, such as Microsoft
Windows NT 4.0, access the RTC directly, but most have the logic to recognize 00 as 2000
and manually increment the CMOS from 19 to 20.

Furthermore, a compliant BIOS should solve almost all Y2K rollover problems. If you are
planning remediation strategies, decide whether you want to replace 90 percent of your
RTCs or 12 percent of your BIOSes.

Matthew Estes
Technical specialist
Greenwich Mean Time-UTA L.C.
Arlington, Va.

I read with interest Steve Ryan’s column on patent reform [GCN, Jan. 25, Page 25]. I have never seen such a blunt and
to-the-point article on the subject.

Regarding your comment about our long struggle to build an electronic database and
retrieval system for patent data, the entire U.S. patent image database has been available
for examiner searching since May 1994 using specialized workstations in cluster rooms.
U.S. text searching from examiner desktop workstations has been available since April

Examiner desktop workstation access to the U.S. patent image database was completed in
November 1997. Patent examiners can now search from their desktop workstations all U.S.,
European Patent Office and Japanese Patent Office patents’ full images and those from
selected Patent Cooperation Treaty member countries, U.S. full text to January 1971,
English language translations of EPO and JPO abstracts, the Derwent collection of foreign
patent documents and the Elsevier collection of 232 technical journals. The online patent
database contains 28 million patent documents.

The examiners also have access to commercial databases from their desktop workstations
through PTOnet gateways. Within the year, examiners will have desktop access to European
full text, IBM Technical Disclosure Bulletins and the U.S. full text back to 1790. Also,
regarding the 18-month publication proposal, PTO has captured in electronic form all
patent applications received since April 1997.

The current capability we have in place to capture applications in electronic form,
coupled with this year’s electronic filing pilot, will make 18-month publication not
such a difficult task.

Dennis Shaw
Chief information officer
Patent and Trademark Office


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