After reading your article on year 2000-readiness testing tools for PCs [GCN, Jan. 11, Page 1], I decided to try the free YMark2000
utility you mentioned from National Software Testing Laboratories Inc.

I booted up a 133-MHz Pentium PC from now-defunct EPS Technologies Inc. in
MS-DOS mode and ran YMark. It reported that the computer could not perform a real-time
progression from 1999 to 2000.

YMark said the BIOS could be manually set and would retain the correct date. I
went into the BIOS setup program and set the time to Dec. 31, 1999, at 23:59 p.m. The time
appeared to roll over correctly. After saving the BIOS changes, I rebooted. Microsoft
Windows 95 indicated Jan. 1, 2000.

Have you encountered similar situations with any Pentium systems during your

A. A BIOS can be a finicky thing. When the PC maker is no longer in business, you have
no easy way to get a BIOS update. Some older PCs cannot roll over to the correct century
when turned off, and that may be the case with yours. If the PCs are on, rollover occurs
without issue.

So what does this mean for offices such as yours next New Year’s Eve? You could
leave the older PCs running all night. Or you might opt to change all the year dates on
Jan. 3.

Do not place blind faith in Win95. If the operating system notices the BIOS is calling
the year 1900, the OS merely corrects itself to show 2000. So be sure to go in and check
the BIOS.

Either way, it sounds as if your EPS machines could use one of the BIOS fixes available
from most of the year 2000 tools covered in the GCN review.

Q. I’ve begun to see references—some from reputable sources—to
the terrible things that will happen on Sept. 9, 1999, because computers supposedly will
interpret “9999” as an error condition.

I don’t know about the computers they are using, but all the ones I have
seen will read 990909, and they won’t miss a beat.

Just had to get that off my chest. Hope you can use it and put a shirt on my

A. A brand new GCN T-shirt is on its way to you. You are correct. The hexadecimal
number 9999 commonly used to indicate end of file will not be misinterpreted because, as
you say, the computer’s real-time clock stores data in two-character fields. The
month and day will each appear as “09” to the computer.

Sept. 9 might be a bad day for old mainframes or other legacy systems, but not for any
modern AT-based computer. There are plenty of other date concerns.

The Sneaker Sleuth is on the case. Got a baffling bug? Sneaker.Net’s author,
GCN Lab director Michael Cheek, will answer questions about common computer problems. Send
your query to  If your question
appears, you’ll receive a GCN T-shirt.

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