Is Baylor Ready for 2000?

March 23, 1998

The upcoming turn of the century has created a number of exciting challenges. While people discuss the fate of health care, social security, and Generation X, computer programmers have another issue on their minds. Every computer in the world needs year 2000¡compliant software.

Numerous world wide web sites, companies, periodicals, and conferences dedicate time and resources to this issue. Becky King, associate director for information systems at Baylor, said storing and processing dates represents the main problem.

To save computer space, a system was developed in the past 20 to 30 years that allowed two digits for dates. Many programs sort by date, but programs with two digits will sort the number 00 before the number 98. After the year 2000, you will need all four digits of dates for correct calculations. It sounds simplistic, but it is very difficult because there are millions of computer files and programs all over the world, King said.

For example, many computers code Jan. 1, 2000 as 010100. Systems not 2000¡compliant would read that code as Jan. 1, 1900. Therefore, the files must be increased to eight digits. If computers at Baylor are not 2000¡compliant they will miscalculate information such as faculty and students' ages and how long they have been at the university.

Baylor gets its main server files and programs from a higher education software specialist. Therefore, the University's Information Technology Center will not conduct the programming, but they will install the systems, update and test them, which King said will consume a great deal of time.

Offices such as the registrar, financial aid, the libraries, and student records need new software. She also said that departments that use programs not associated with the main server will need to make sure their systems are compliant.

"This transition is more than a minor inconvenience, but it's not as big of a problem for us at Baylor as it is for many other institutions, corporations, and government agencies because we purchase our software and stay on top of what needs to be done to it," King said. "It'll take a lot of work, but we feel like we're going to be fine."

Richard Gerik, associate director for student computing services, also said that he does not anticipate having any problems with operating software in the student labs because they already contain 2000¡compliant software. However, he did say students may encounter difficulties if they access extended sites and software that Baylor does not own because those programs may not be compliant.

"If the year 2000 came tomorrow, our labs would be fine," Gerik said.

Looking for more news from Baylor University?