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Institute Prepares For Y2K

Most Systems Should Function in New Year

By Naveen Sunkavally

Armageddon will probably have to wait a while beyond the year 2000 -- at least at MIT. Most campus systems have been tested, retested, and readied to avoid Y2K disaster.

MIT’s Year 2000 team formed in June 1998 after a recommendation by an exploratory group in 1997. The team is MIT’s watch-group responsible for tracking the progress of over 270 enterprise systems on campus.

“Every department is monitoring its own systems” and reporting back to the team, said Rocklyn E. Clarke ’80, leader of the Y2K team. Information Systems must monitor systems including the Andrew File System, the Domain Name System servers, and the HASS-D and P.E. Lottery; Facilities must monitor the elevators, fire alarms, the paging system, and climate control.

The Y2K bug refers to the potential problems computer systems might encounter as a result of programs that store years using only two digits. Systems with the problem must be brought into compliance, either through repair, upgrading, or complete replacement.

Most systems Y2K compliant

As of October 31, 188 out of 277 systems are Y2K-complaint, Clarke said, while 88 systems are in progress, and one system has not reported back.

According to the Summary Report from October 1999, AFS is not yet compliant, but normal users of Athena should not be affected. All reports are available online with MIT site certificates at <>.

Facilities expects no problems

“We’re in pretty good shape facilities-wise,” said Joseph F. Gifun, senior engineer in the Department of Facilities. “I don’t anticipate anything going wrong.”

He said that the department is currently triple-checking elevators and rechecking fire alarms, and it has looked at systems such as climate control, MIT card access, two-way radios, and pagers. In addition, Facilities has been in contact with utility services in examining the national power grid, has tested control systems in the power plant, and is maintaining the Bates Linear Accelerator, Gifun said.

“We’ve been working for a couple of years, looking at all the systems, testing, evaluating, [conducting] several layers of testing and retesting,” Gifun said. “One thing is that we do have ways of getting around things through manual overrides.”

In addition, Facilities has made special arrangements with fuel suppliers to have natural gas, oil, and diesel fuel on hand in case of emergency.

Dining services Y2K compliant

The Office of Campus Dining has also made arrangements for the transition to the new millennium.

Richard D. Berlin III, director of Campus Dining, said that on the night of the new year Walker Memorial will be open as a dining location and that the Student Center will probably be closed.

“We’ve upgraded our sales systems to be Y2K-compliant,” Berlin said, but in case of a power failure, coupons for meal plan points will be made available.

Berlin, who expects 35 to 45 percent of people normally on campus to remain on campus during the transition, said that he expects all the food service providers to have adequately prepared their systems. “I don’t think stockpiling of canned goods and dehydrated foods is necessary.”