98-4  Obsolete

The Year 2000
June 1, 1998

The Year 2000 poses worldwide computing challenges and could have an impact on your research activities. Both the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health have issued notices regarding the Year 2000. Both agencies require that awardees take appropriate action to ensure that the federally supported activity is not adversely affected by the Year 2000 problem. The full text of the NSF notice is at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/1997/iin120/iin120.htm. The NIH notice is at http://www.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/not98-046.html. These documents may also be obtained from the research office on your campus.

Problems in your research activity will likely be caused by one of these four items:

Computers and software. In general, Unix and Macintosh systems are prepared for the Year 2000, and UITS will continue to update the web resources with information on these operating systems. The main problem lies with Intel-based systems, especially if they use a DOS operating system. Although there are exceptions, the general rule is that Pentium-based processors running Windows 95/NT or later are Year 2000 ready. Earlier versions of the Intel processor and DOS operating system may experience problems. For more on determining whether your Intel-based systems are ready for the Year 2000, see the Web page at: http://intel.ucs.indiana.edu/planning_x86/y2k.html

Database and spreadsheet software packages may cause problems if they store date-related information. To determine whether your software complies with Year 2000, see the Web page at: http://www.indiana.edu/~dms/dmsy2k.html

Other software, such as statistical packages, may have Year 2000 problems. Check with your local or campus computing support person or talk with your software vendor. You should also contact the vendor or contractor of commercial or custom developed software to determine its readiness for the Year 2000.

Storing research data. If you are collecting and storing research data that contains dates, you should use the full four digits in the year fields. This is essential if you select items based on dates, or perform sorts, comparisons, or calculations with these date fields. Even if you use dates simply for purposes of display, the four-character field will eliminate ambiguity.

External data. If you receive data from an external source such as a government agency, ask your sources when these data will be Year 2000 compliant. If the data provider does not plan to change the date format then you will need to start modifying your affected processes immediately. The changes could be quite complex and you will need time to renovate your application and test for Year 2000 compliance.

Embedded chips. Much scientific and medical equipment contains computer chips. If date processing is part of the role these chips play, and they’re not Year 2000 compliant, there is a potential for failure. Both NIH and NSF state:

Awardees should also be aware that the Year 2000 may affect electronic devices utilizing embedded microchips that perform date-based calculations. Biomedical devices and other laboratory equipment may depend upon embedded date functions. If the chip receives what it perceives to be an invalid date, it may fail, impacting important experiments. False date comparisons may invalidate test results, leading to false conclusions.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to determine whether equipment is ready for the Year 2000 by looking at it; nor is this easily determined by testing. Contact the equipment vendor or consult the vendor’s Web page for this information.


We strongly recommend that you assess the impact of the change of century and inventory the items that may be at risk. You can prioritize these items by importance or greatest risk, then address the problems by priority.

Your best source of help is your local computing support provider. In addition, you’ll find information on the IU Year 2000 Web page, at http://www.indiana.edu/~year2000, and you may send Year 2000 related questions by e-mail to year2000@indiana.edu.