Roy Summerford and Mitch Emmons


AUBURN -- Auburn University will return briefly to the 1970s B.C. (before computers) as university units begin testing contingency plans for response to potential bites from the Y2K bug.

Syd Spain, co-director of AU's Y2K preparedness team, says the university expects to submit its contingency plan to Alabama Gov. Don Siegelmanıs office by Friday, as requested of all state operations.

The university's contingency plan, which is based on plans submitted by major divisions, outlines how AU will respond in case of computer malfunctions or shutdowns on Jan. 1, 2000, the day the feared Y2K bug will bite.

In a worst-case scenario, the calendar problem, or ³bug² in computer parlance, will lead to massive computer problems worldwide as two-digit internal computer clocks read the "00" as 1900 instead of 2000. The major exception among computers are Apple Macintoshes, which have been ready for 2000 since their genesis in 1984.

While teams of computer experts from AUıs Division of University Computing have been providing information to help other users avoid the problem, Spain has been collecting and organizing the contingency plans in case some bugs slip through the cracks.

The Y2K preparedness team also conducted a planning workshop to help units develop their plans.

"The next step,² Spain said, ³is testing the contingency plans. If the fall-back is a manual process, they will be asked to demonstrate that they can implement it and that they have the necessary resources on hand to do so.²

Most contingency plans would return operations to the prehistoric (in computer terms) days of the 1970s, before desktop computing became widespread, or 1960s in the case of mainframe computers. In extreme cases, such as registration, offices would resort to paper forms and manual processing, with the resultant long lines of the earlier era.

The contingency testing is a state requirement, Spain noted.

Although offices will not have to go through a lengthy practice run, Spain said they will be expected to demonstrate that they can maintain operations manually in the event of a computer shutdown due to Y2K.

In one of several approaches to reducing the danger, Spain said, the university has purchased licenses to Norton 2000 software, which will check spreadsheets and database information on computers and report on Y2K compliance.

Spain said the Y2K detection software will enable administrators and researchers to identify potential problems which can then be averted.

Meanwhile, troubleshooters have also embarked on Y2K compatibility testing of AU computers and date-sensitive equipment used in the critical area of research.

"The impact of the Year 2000 on research at the university may be one of the most difficult concerns to assess," said Spain. "Any piece of laboratory equipment, hardware, software or database that is date dependent is suspect."

Most desk-top computers already have been tested and passed, says Spain,.But there may still be personal computers used in research and other date- dependent equipment that have not been tested.

"This could be anything from a temperature control device to a fax machine," he said.

Information for identifying, prioritizing and scheduling testing of research equipment has been sent to the associate deans for research in each of the colleges and schools. DUC also is updating its Year 2000 web site to provide user-friendly information about testing procedures.

Spain said DUC will continue to provide assistance to departments in testing research computers and equipment for Y2K compatibility throughout the summer and into fall term. A help desk also is available.

If university's standard testing does not correct Y2K compatibility problems, units may be required to turn to equipment vendors for assistance. The Research Electronics Support Facility can make the upgrades recommended by the equipment vendors.

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